Music legend Jimmy Buffett died after a secret years-long battle with skin cancer, sources have revealed.
The singer-songwriter’s death aged 76 was announced on Friday night, and an insider told TMZ his demise came four years after he was diagnosed with skin cancer that turned into lymphoma.
‘He lived his life in the sun, literally and figuratively,’ they said, adding that Buffett had entered a hospice on Monday.
The 76-year-old epitomized beach-bum escapism with his hit ‘Margaritaville,’ and turned the song that celebrated loafing into a billion-dollar business empire. He amassed legions of fans over his five-decade career, and his friend Paul McCartney reportedly visited the Grammy nominee at his home within the last week to sing to him.
‘Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,’ a statement posted to Buffett’s official website and social media pages said. ‘He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.’
The icon is survived by his wife, Jane Slagsvol, daughters Savannah and Sarah, and son Cameron.
Legendary singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who epitomized beach bum escapism with his hit ‘Margaritaville,’ died on Friday age 76. He is seen above in February, before falling ill
Jimmy Buffett is pictured holding a bottle of Budweiser beer during an interview in New York in 1977, the year his smash-hit ‘Margaritaville’ was released
Fans across the world were left heartbroken by the news, but the 76-year-old had offered indications his health was deteriorating in recent months.
Illness forced him to reschedule concerts in May, and Buffett said in recent social media posts that he had been hospitalized, without sharing details.
From humble beginnings as an admitted small-time marijuana smuggler in Key West, Buffett built a sprawling business empire based on his Caribbean-flavored soft rock that celebrated the Florida Keys, sunshine and nightlife.
His name became synonymous with a laid-back subtropical party vibe, and his legions of loyal fans, known as ParrotHeads, flocked to his restaurants, resorts and concerts. At his death, Buffett had a net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes.
His beloved hit ‘Margaritaville,’ quickly took on a life of its own after it was released on February 14, 1977, becoming a state of mind for those ‘wastin away,’ and an excuse for a life of low-key fun and escapism for those ‘growing older, but not up.’
The song is the unhurried portrait of a loafer on his front porch, watching tourists sunbathe while a pot of shrimp is beginning to boil. The singer has a new tattoo, a likely hangover and regrets over a lost love. Somewhere there is a misplaced salt shaker.
The icon, pictured in March, had offered indications his health was deteriorating in recent months but had not shared that he was battling skin cancer before his death
‘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,’ Spin magazine wrote in 2021.
‘The tourists come and go, one group indistinguishable from the other. Waves crest and break whether somebody is there to witness it or not. Everything that means anything has already happened and you’re not even sure when.’
The song – from the 1977 album ‘Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes’ – spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No. 8.
The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 for its cultural and historic significance, became a karaoke standard and helped brand Key West, Florida, as a destination known the world over.
‘There was no such place as Margaritaville,’ Buffett told the Arizona Republic in 2021. ‘It was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up about my experiences in Key West and having to leave Key West and go on the road to work and then come back and spend time by the beach.’
Today, however, there are at least 23 Margaritaville restaurants, as well as hotels, casinos and resorts operating under the brand, and a $1 billion retirement village in Daytona Beach, known as Latitude Margaritaville.
Buffett leaves behind his wife, Jane Slagsvol, whom he’s been married to since 1977, and three children: Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron.
Buffett’s death was announced on his official website and social media pages
Buffett leaves behind his wife, Jane Slagsvol (with him above on March 12), whom he’s been married to since 1977, and three children: Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron
James William Buffett was born on Christmas day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and raised in the port town of Mobile, Alabama.
He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he studied journalism, and went from busking the streets of New Orleans to playing six nights a week at Bourbon Street clubs.
Intent on becoming a country music singer, he moved to Nashville, where he released his first record, ‘Down To Earth,’ in 1970 and sold just 324 copies.
In 1972, leaving behind a failed marriage and a disappointing music career in Nashville, he moved to Key West, where his official bio says he ‘helped to support himself by smuggling a little marijuana from the Caribbean.’
He kept releasing albums on a regular yearly clip, with his 1974 song ‘Come Monday’ from his fourth studio album ‘Living and Dying in ¾ Time,’ peaking at No. 30.
Then came ‘Margaritaville’ in 1977.
Buffett has said he was actually in Austin, Texas, when the inspiration struck for ‘Margaritaville.’
He and a friend had stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant before she dropped him at the airport for a flight home to Key West, so they got to drinking margaritas.
‘And I kind of came up with that idea of this is just like Margarita-ville,’ Buffett told the Republic. ‘She kind of laughed at that and put me on the plane. And I started working on it.’
He wrote some on the plane and finished it while driving down the Keys. ‘There was a wreck on the bridge,’ he said. ‘And we got stopped for about an hour so I finished the song on the Seven Mile Bridge, which I thought was apropos.’
The song soon inspired restaurants and resorts, turning Buffett´s alleged desire for the simplicity of island life into a multimillion brand.
Intent on becoming a country music singer, Buffett first moved to Nashville, where he released his first record, ‘Down To Earth,’ in 1970 and sold just 324 copies
Jimmy Buffett performs with The Coral Reefer Band at The Omni Coliseum on September 4, 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia
Buffett is seen in 1982, performing at US Festival at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore, California
Buffett has said he was actually on the road performing in Austin, Texas, when the inspiration struck for ‘Margaritaville’. He is seen above in 1982
Music critics were never very kind to Buffett or his catalogue, including the sandy beach-side snack bar songs like ‘Fins,’ ‘Come Monday’ and ‘Cheeseburgers in Paradise.’
But his legions of fans, called ‘ParrotHeads,’ regularly turned up for his concerts wearing toy parrots, cheeseburgers, sharks and flamingos on their heads, leis around their necks and loud Hawaiian shirts.
‘It’s pure escapism is all it is,’ he told the Republic. ‘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.’
His special Gulf Coast mix of country, pop, folk and rock added instruments and tonalities more commonly found in the Caribbean, like steel drums.
It was a stew of steelpans, trombones and pedal steel guitar. Buffett´s incredible ear for hooks and light grooves were often overshadowed by his lyrics about fish tacos and sunsets.
Rolling Stone, in a review of Buffett´s 2020 album ‘Life on the Flip Side,’ gave grudging props.
‘He continues mapping out his surfy, sandy corner of pop music utopia with the chill, friendly warmth of a multi-millionaire you wouldn´t mind sharing a tropically-themed 3 p.m. IPA with, especially if his gold card was on the bar when the last round came.’
Jimmy Buffett and son Cameron are seen in 1996. The singer on Friday ‘passed away peacefully surrounded by family, friends, music and dogs’
Jimmy Buffett performs at the ‘Grand Bal du Bosquet’ to celebrate the first unveiling of The Trois Fontaines Bosquet at the Orangerie of the Chateau De Versailles June 12, 2004 in Paris
Buffett performs during the renaming event of the Miami Dolphins NFL football stadium in 2009. The Dolphins Stadium was renamed LandShark Stadium, after the beer brand that was then owned by Buffett’s Margaritaville Enterprises
Buffett with wife Jane and daughters Savannah and Sara are seen arriving at a ‘Men In Black II’ screening charity after-party in East Hampton, New York in 2002
Tributes have poured in from all walks of life, from Hollywood star Miles Teller posting photos of himself with Buffett to former US Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, who wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Buffett ‘lived life to the fullest and the world will miss him.’
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote: ‘Love and Mercy, Jimmy Buffett.’
Behind the laid-back exterior, Buffett was an admitted workaholic. He expanded his business into novels, nightclubs and many other ventures.
Buffett’s evolving lifestyle 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 title of Buffett’s most popular song showed up on restaurants, clothing, booze and casinos.
He became involved in such products as Landshark Lager, the Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chains, boat shoes, salsa, hummus, tortillas, dips, tequila and blenders.
The Margaritaville cafe on the Las Vegas strip was said to be the top grossing restaurant in the nation.
There also was a Broadway-bound jukebox musical, ‘Escape to Margaritaville,’ a romantic comedy in which a singer-bartender called Sully falls for the far more career-minded Rachel, who is vacationing with friends and hanging out at Margaritaville, the hotel bar where Sully works.
Buffett was chairman of Margaritaville Holdings based in Palm Beach, Florida. He had a restaurant and a casino in Vegas, a casino in Mississippi and a hotel in Pensacola Beach, Florida, but the exact scope of his empire was a secret.
Margaritaville Holdings LLC didn’t disclose its finances, and he usually declined interview requests.
Jimmy Buffett, wife Jane Buffett and daughter Sarah Delaney Buffett pose at the opening night of The Jimmy Buffett Musical ‘Escape To Margaritaville’ on Broadway in 2018
Jimmy Buffett hands out free cheeseburgers as he officially opens up the Box Office for his Broadway Musical ‘Escape To Margaritaville’ at the Marquis Theatre in 2017
Martin Lawrence, Stefania LaVie Owen, Harmony Korine, and Jimmy Buffett, and Isla Fisher attend the ‘The Beach Bum’ premiere at SXSW in 2019 in Austin, Texas
Jimmy Buffett, right, along with members of his Coral Reefer Band including Mac McAnally, center, perform during a concert in Key West in Feburary
Jimmy Buffett, pictured in an undated photo, died on Friday at the age of 76
‘I’m not about to apologize for being a good businessman,’ Buffett told The Washington Post in 1998.
‘Too many people in music have ruined their lives because they weren’t. I’m not a great singer, and I’m only a so-so guitar player.
‘I started running the band years ago because nobody else could, and I turned out to be good at this stuff. There’s never been any grand plan to this thing. I’m making it up as I go along. … Just trying to work the system while maintaining my ’60s anarchic soul.’
Buffett performed on more than 50 studio and live albums, often accompanied by his Coral Reefer Band, and was constantly on tour.
He earned two Grammy Award nominations, two Academy of Country Music Awards and a Country Music Association Award.
Buffett also was the author of numerous books including ‘Where Is Joe Merchant?’ and ‘A Pirate Looks At Fifty’ and added movies to his resume as co-producer and co-star of an adaptation of Carl Hiaasen´s novel ‘Hoot.’
Back in May, he was forced to cancel his Second Wind Tour stop in Charleston, South Carolina following a health scare that landed him in the hospital.
Buffett later reported he would be returning home the following day and recuperating with friends before scheduling more shows.
‘Growing old is not for sissies, I promise you,’ he tweeted at the time.