Sources close to the songwriter, who popularised beach bum soft rock with the escapist Caribbean-flavored song ‘Margaritaville’, revealed that the 76-year-old was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Skin Cancer four years ago.
“He lived his life in the sun, literally and figuratively,” a friend of the beloved singer told TMZ.
Buffet performed during treatment and played his last show in Rhode Island in early July. He reportedly began receiving hospice care on Monday (28 August) at his home in Sag Harbor, Long Island and died surrounded by his family, friends and dogs.
TMZ also reports that Paul McCartney sang to Buffet during his final days.
“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 late Friday. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
Illness had forced Buffet to reschedule concerts in May. He had acknowledged in social media posts that he had been treated in hospital, but provided no specifics.
“Margaritaville”, released on Valentine’s Day 1977, quickly took on a life of its own, becoming a state of mind for those ”wastin’ away”, 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.
“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 album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” — spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No 8.
‘Margaritaville’ 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 distinct sound of music and 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.”
The song soon inspired restaurants and resorts, turning Buffett’s alleged desire for the simplicity of island life into a multimillion brand. He landed at No 13 in Forbes’ America’s Richest Celebrities in 2016 with a net worth of $550m.
Buffe also wrote songs about his experiences as a sailor and pilot. His song Jamaica Mistaica stemmed from an instance in which his plane was shot at by police, while Buffet Hotel is a retelling of the time he got lost in the Sahara Desert.
The singer-songwriter was also an acclaimed author. He wrote several non-fiction and fiction books that were featured in the New York Times Book Review.
Buffet is survived by his wife of 46 years Jane and their three adult children.