Parrot Heads in Mourning Over Death of an Icon

"Margaritaville" singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett is dead at 76
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2023 7:17 AM CDT
Parrot Heads in Mourning Over Death of an Icon
Jimmy Buffett performs at his sister's restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on June 30, 2010.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Jimmy Buffett's search for that missing salt shaker has just entered a new realm. The millionaire singer-songwriter and businessman described by the New York Times as the "roguish bard of island escapism," known for such singalong hits as "Margaritaville," "Fins," and "Cheeseburger in Paradise," has died at the age of 76. "Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs," read a statement on Buffett's website and social media accounts on Saturday. "He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many." The AP reports that where Buffett died wasn't revealed, nor was his cause of death, but it noted that the singer had mentioned in social media posts that he'd been hospitalized after canceling concerts in May due to illness.

The Mississippi-born Buffett had his first top 40 hit with "Come Monday," a track from his 1974 album Living and Dying in 3/4 Time, his fourth studio album. That song put him on the map, but it was 1977's Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes, which featured "Margaritaville," that made him a star. "What seems like a simple ditty about getting blotto and mending a broken heart turns out to be a profound meditation on the often painful inertia of beach dwelling," noted Spin magazine in 2021. "Margaritaville" was Buffett's only single to ascend to Billboard's pop top 10, reaching No. 8. The song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 and put Key West, Florida, on the radar.

That laid-back, tropical vibe that suggested a cold drink in the blender could fix all of life's ills (or at least numb them) permeated most of Buffett's musics and prompted an obsessive fan base that became known as "Parrot Heads." It was typical to see them show up at his concerts, where he was accompanied by his traveling Coral Reefer Band, decked out in Hawaiian shirts and leis and sporting shark fins and cheeseburgers on their heads. Buffett was also known for his business empire, including "Margaritaville"-themed restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets, as well as a clothing line and a boutique tequila—"all of which made him a millionaire hundreds of times over," per the Times.

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Buffett also penned tunes for films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High; made cameos in movies and TV shows such as Jurassic World and the Hawaii Five-O reboot; and wrote books—he ended up at the top of both the Times' fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists. "It's pure escapism, is all it is," he told the Arizona Republic in 2021 of his vibe. "I'm not the first one to do it, nor shall I probably be the last. But I think it's really a part of the human condition that you've got to have some fun. You've got to get away from whatever you do to make a living or other parts of life that stress you out. I try to make it at least 50/50 fun to work, and so far it's worked out." Buffett is survived by his wife, Jane; two daughters and a son; two sisters; and two grandsons. (More Jimmy Buffett stories.)

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