Jimmy Buffett, 'Mr. Margaritaville' and Palm Beacher, dies at 76

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James "Jimmy" William Buffett, a self-described tow-headed boy who was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and achieved fame and fortune playing the music he loved, died Friday at 76.

A statement on the part-time Palm Beach resident's website Saturday said, "Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs.

"He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many."

The statement did not say where he died or give a cause of death.

Thanks to his hit single "Margaritaville, Mr. Buffett's name became indelibly linked with his song, and he parlayed that into becoming the king of "Margaritaville."

Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Buffett

In May, Mr. Buffett canceled a concert in South Carolina and said in a statement: "I had to stop in Boston for a checkup but wound up back in the hospital to address some issues that needed immediate attention.”

Mr. Buffett told his legions of fans — known affectionately as "Parrotheads" — in that statement: "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."

He recovered enough by July 4 weekend to make the short flight from his Long Island home to Rhode Island, where he made a surprise appearance at a concert by his longtime friend and Coral Reefer Band member Mac McAnally.

During his 45-minute set in Portsmouth, a small town that shares Aquidneck Island with Newport, a visibly gaunt Mr. Buffett noted that he hadn't been out of his house in months and said "It's great to see an audience."

Jimmy Buffett performs July 3 during a surprise appearance at a concert by his longtime friend and Coral Reefer Band member Mac McAnally.
Jimmy Buffett performs July 3 during a surprise appearance at a concert by his longtime friend and Coral Reefer Band member Mac McAnally.

In addition to “Margaritaville,” his recordings included other songs he wrote focused on a casual island lifestyle —including “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Volcano," and “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude” — and “Fins,” which he co-wrote. His portfolio also included “Come Monday.”

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Mr. Buffett had longtime ties to Palm Beach area, where he sometimes appeared at fundraisers

Denise A. Hanley, of Palm Beach, said she and her husband, Dan, shared a great friendship with Mr. Buffett and his wife, Jane, stretching over nearly 50 years. The Hanleys attended the Buffetts’ “sensational wedding” in Aspen, Colorado, 47 years ago, Denise Hanley said in a statement she released to the Palm Beach Daily News on Saturday.

She described the Buffetts as a “fantastic couple and family.”

She also represented the Buffetts in their Palm Beach real estate transactions through her eponymous agency on Worth Avenue.

“Jimmy was probably the most energetic person we knew, always on stage — a storyteller as much as a singer. Creative, witty and insightful, he lived life to the full and his family and friends loved being with him and around him. What a personality!" Hanley said.

“As he would say, ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal.’ May his carefree and effervescent songs live on.”

Jane and Jimmy Buffett in 2002
Jane and Jimmy Buffett in 2002

In Palm Beach and vicinity, Mr. Buffett's civic involvement included serving as a board member of the Everglades Foundation. He also was a regular fixture at a number of annual charity fundraisers.

In a statement on its website Saturday, the Everglades Foundation said its board and staff "extend our heartfelt sympathy on the passing of our beloved Board member, Jimmy Buffett."

Noting Mr. Buffett's passion for the Everglades and Florida’s waterways, the Foundation said: "Since joining the Foundation’s Board in 2005, Jimmy has contributed immeasurably to our mission to restore and protect America’s Everglades. In addition to contributing to 'Florida Bay Forever,' the book marking the Foundation’s 25th anniversary, Jimmy and his daughter, Savannah, have shared their time and love for Florida’s waters by incorporating the importance of our mission in music.

"Jimmy Buffett has left an indelible mark on The Everglades Foundation. His talent and adoration for the Everglades and Florida’s way of life will remain unmatched. Our thoughts are with the Buffett family, and we will continue to focus on restoring the flow of clean freshwater through the Everglades and into Florida Bay as Jimmy so deeply valued."

Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, posted a statement about the singer Saturday on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Jimmy was a dear friend to my Dad, me and our family. This is such a loss. I am sending out much love to his family and all Parrotheads,” Graham posted.

Mr. Buffett and his band once performed in Palm Beach at The Breakers for a 2003 fundraiser when Bob Graham was a Democratic presidential hopeful. Their friendship began in 1981 when then-Gov. Graham and Mr. Buffett co-founded Florida’s Save the Manatee club, which is the world’s leading manatee conservation organization, according to its website

At the time of The Breakers fundraiser, Bob Graham said: “I have known Jimmy for over 20 years and he has been a friend to me, a friend to Florida, and a friend to our environment. I am proud to have his support.”

Mr. Buffett developed "Margaritaville" into a successful brand

Further reaction came Sunday from the Navy SEALs.

“We were deeply saddened to hear about Jimmy Buffett's passing," said Elliot Herschberg, Michael Kluger and Matthew K. Smith, co-chairmen of the 2024 Palm Beach Navy SEAL Evening of Tribute.

“Mr. Buffett was very supportive of the SEAL Evening of Tribute, and we remain ever grateful that he shared his talents with us, performing at several of our events over the past decade. He will be sorely missed,” they said.

Mr. Buffett’s evolving brand began in 1985 with the opening of a string of Margaritaville-themed stores and restaurants in Key West, followed in 1987 with the first Margaritaville Café nearby. Over the course of the next two decades, several more of each opened throughout Florida, New Orleans and California.

The brand has since expanded to dozens of categories, including resorts, apparel and footwear for men and women, a radio station, a beer brand, iced tea, tequila and rum, home décor, food items like salad dressing, Margaritaville Crunchy Pimento Cheese & Shrimp Bites and Margaritaville Cantina Style Medium Chunky Salsa, the Margaritaville at Sea cruise line and restaurants, including Margaritaville Restaurant, JWB Prime Steak and Seafood, 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill and LandShark Bar & Grill.

In 2021, the world’s first Margaritaville-branded ship launched from the Port of Palm Beach. The former Grand Classica was renamed the Margaritaville Paradise and the company that owns it, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, became Margaritaville at Sea.

Mr. Buffett and his wife bought, sold several homes in Palm Beach

Although his name is most often linked in popular culture to Key West in the Florida Keys, Mr. Buffett had deep residential ties to Palm Beach dating to at least the early 1990s. At his death, he owned at least two homes on Root Trail, a short ocean-block street lined with historic cottages and townhouses.

In December 2020, he and his wife sold a Palm Beach house they owned at 309 Garden Road on the North End for about $7 million. They had owned it since 2011.

In May 2010, the Buffetts sold, for a recorded $18.5 million, a much larger five-bedroom oceanfront home across town on 1.6 acres at 540 S. Ocean Blvd. They had paid $4.4 million for that house in 1994. That house was later demolished and eventually replaced by a mansion under a new owner.

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The Buffetts’ property-ownership company, Sadeca Realty LLC, also owns a single-family house in West Palm Beach, property records show.

Mr. Buffett was among several recording artists with homes in Palm Beach, including Billy JoelJon Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart.

With a fortune estimated at $1 billion, Mr. Buffett this year joined Forbes' list of the world’s billionaires, which was released in April. Mr. Buffett was among at least 57 billionaires the Palm Beach Daily News identified as owning or leasing property in Palm Beach.

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Palm Beach resident and attorney Bill Bone said he and his ex-wife, Dr. Melanie Bone, knew the Buffetts because their children had attended school together.

"Jimmy was much more of a family man than his party persona would suggest. His smile was as quick and easy in a casual school setting as it was on stage. And he was very generous. His benefit concert for the school held at The Breakers in 2004 was the biggest event on the calendar that year," Bill Bone told the Palm Beach Daily News on Saturday.

Just recently, a group of Miami scientists named a newly discovered tiny crustacean they found in the Floriday Keys Gnathia jimmybuffetti in Mr. Buffett's honor. It was the first new gnathiid isopod discovered in Florida in nearly a century, according to marine biologist Paul Sikkel, a professor at the University of Miami.

"By naming a species after an artist, we want to promote the integration of the arts and sciences," Sikkel said.

Mr. Buffett was raised in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated in 1969 from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in history, and soon began playing six nights a week at Bourbon Street clubs in New Orleans.

Mr. Buffett is survived by Jane Sagsvol, his wife of 47 years; and his children Savannah, Sarah and Cameron; a grandson; and sisters Laurie and Lucy.

This story has been updated from a previous version. This is a breaking news story; check back for details.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Jimmy Buffett dies: 'Margaritaville' singer lived in Palm Beach