Jimmy Buffett, 'Margaritaville' Singer, Dead at 76

"He lived his life like a song till the very last breath," a statement posted on the singer-songwriter's social media channels and website on Saturday read

Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic Jimmy Buffett
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett, the musician and mogul whose easy-breezy hit "Margaritaville" became a way of life for legions of devoted Parrotheads, has died. He was 76.

The singer-songwriter, whose new album Equal Strain on All Parts was due to be released later this year, died with his family and friends around him, a statement posted on his social media and website on Saturday confirmed.

“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs," the statement — which was accompanied by a touching photograph of Buffett sitting on a boat —read. "He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many."

Buffett was forced to reschedule a concert in May after he was hospitalized in Boston "to address some issues that needed immediate attention," he told fans in a statement shared to Twitter.

"Growing old is not for sissies, I promise you," he said. " I also will promise you, that when I am well enough to perform, that is what I'll be doing in the land of She-Crab soup. You all make my life more meaningful and fulfilled than I would have ever imagined as a [tow] headed little boy sitting on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico."

Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage Jimmy Buffett performs in May 2022
Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage Jimmy Buffett performs in May 2022

Buffett, who is survived by wife Jane and kids Savannah, Sarah and Cameron, was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and raised partially in Alabama. He developed a love of musical theater as a young boy thanks to his mom Mary, who spent her time off from the shipyard with the Mobile Theatre Guild in Alabama.

"She would always be in productions, and she would take me to the shows when they'd come through town," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2018, the same year his own jukebox musical, Escape to Margaritaville, opened on Broadway.

After graduating from college with a history degree, Buffett worked briefly as a writer for Billboard magazine, and also spent several years working on a fishing boat.

He released his first album, Down to Earth, in 1970, but didn't break through until seven years later, when "Margaritaville," off the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, became a hit. The enduring sun-kissed anthem — which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 — helped change the trajectory of Buffett's career, as it went on to spawn a booming business of the same name featuring everything from resorts and restaurants to apparel and drinks.

Related: Jimmy Buffett Hospitalized for 'Issues' Needing 'Immediate Attention': 'Growing Old Is Not for Sissies'

Adrian Edwards/GC Image Jimmy Buffett in September 2018
Adrian Edwards/GC Image Jimmy Buffett in September 2018

"I wish I could say that some secret plan for world domination was devised years ago, but I don't have a clue as to why, when or how all this happened. I'm not going to dissect it," Buffett told PEOPLE in 1994. "It'd ruin all the fun of being in the middle of it."

Though Buffett continued to release a steady stream of albums over the next few decades, he became known mainly as a massive concert draw, with his annual shows with his Coral Reefer Band raking in millions for the star.

"I put on a good show for my fans. I sell them Jimmy Buffett. I'm one of the few living legends left," he said, according to a 1990 PEOPLE article. "Even if radio stations won't play my songs, I can still be happy. I can still say, 'I tricked them again.'"

The near cult-like devotees came to be known as Parrotheads, and turned out in droves each year to hear Buffett's signature fusion of country, pop, rock and calypso.

"What's most important is to please the Parrotheads, because there's more to the music than just the music," he told EW in 1995. "It's become a lifestyle. I wish I could take credit, but it's fan-generated."

Buffett released more than 30 albums over his career, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards, for "Hey Good Lookin'," his 2004 song with Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Clint Black and Toby Keith, and the Alan Jackson duet "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," which was released in 2003. Both that song and "Knee Deep," which he recorded with Zac Brown Band, were country No. 1s.

In addition to his music, Buffett was a best-selling author and philanthropist who founded the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club in 1981 with then-Florida Gov. Bob Graham.

Forbes reported in 2023 that the star was a billionaire, and that his assets included an estimated $570 million from touring and recording, a music catalog worth $50 million and $140 million in planes, homes and shares in Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett was also an avid pilot, and made headlines in 1994 after his seaplane crashed in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Buffett was able to punch through the plane's window and climb out into the water, where he was rescued by two fishermen in a passing motorboat. He wrote in his 1998 memoir A Pirate Looks at Fifty that he "lived through it thanks to Navy training."

The musician also recovered in 2011 after falling off the stage during a show in Australia.

Buffett married his second wife Jane, a former model, in 1977, and the pair were parents to daughters Savannah, a radio personality, and Sarah, and son Cameron, whom they adopted in the early 1990s.

"I was perfectly comfortable in a woman's world, or so I thought," he wrote in his memoir. "I have two sisters and no brothers. As a child, I was very close to my mother. I was well into my thirties before my father and I, who had waged our own guerilla warfare, luckily and finally made peace. I now lived in what I referred to then as the International House of Women…Cameron Marley came into our lives just at the right time for all of us Buffetts."

In the book, he praised his family and friends as being "treasure more valuable than gold," and said he believed himself to be extremely fortunate.

"I have been called a lot of things in these fifty years on the good old planet Earth, but the thing I believe I am the most is lucky," he wrote.

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