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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Jimmy Buffet, “Margaritaville” Singer and Icon, Dies at 76


Jimmy Buffet, who passed away on Sept. 1, 2023 after a four-year battle with merkel skin cancer, was many things: a musician, an author, a conservationist and the founder of a wildly successful business. A cultural icon of his time, Buffet popularized the laid-back “Margaritaville” lifestyle among his fans, who are known as “Parrot Heads.” 

Buffet, born on Dec. 25, 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, followed an unconventional path in his early life. After dropping out of Auburn University his second year, he avoided service in the military and remained in the United States while many other young men his age were sent to Vietnam. 

After moving to Nashville in 1970, Buffet released his first album, “Down to Earth,” and began working as a journalist for Billboard. He found little success; his album sold only 324 copies. It was only after this setback that Buffet found the muse that would inspire the rest of his musical career: Key West, Florida. 

Though his tropical relocation did not spur immediate success, he found happiness and inspiration. “I found a lifestyle, and I knew that whatever I did would have to work around my lifestyle,” Buffet explained in a 1989 interview with The Washington Post. 

In Key West, he produced “Margaritaville,” his first top-10 hit song, on his album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” The song portrays a laid-back, easy lifestyle. It launched Buffet to the world stage. 

“Margaritaville” became more than just a song. Inspired by his fans’ reactions, Buffet began his Margaritaville empire with a simple T-shirt shop. Today, it has ballooned into a hospitality empire consisting of hotels, retirement communities, restaurants and even a cruise ship aptly named “Margaritaville at Sea Paradise.” It also sells various merchandise, including margarita mixes, home decor and pool floats. 

The success of Margaritaville is largely a result of  its escapist premise. A $26.95 “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” T-shirt that symbolizes a feet-up, beachy paradise proves irresistible in a world where a significant amount of people want to escape their current lives.

However, the success of Margaritaville as Buffet’s launching pad was just as much due to the singer’s business savvy as it was the song itself. He saw an opportunity to make money while maintaining his island lifestyle, but unlike others of his time, he did not fall into an endless cycle of drinking and partying. “I could wind up like a lot of my friends did, burned out or dead, or redirect the energy,” Buffet said in his 1989 interview with The Washington Post. His net worth was over $1 billion at the time of his death.

Buffet was more than a musician and a marketer. He is one of only a few authors to reach the top of the New York Times fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists, with three books reaching the number one spot. 

A conservationist, Buffet used his influence to jumpstart causes such as the Save the Manatees Club in 1981. He was involved in producing a special “Save the Manatees” license plate that raised millions for Florida’s conservation programs. In addition, he lobbied before Congress for the reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act in 1987. 

Survived by his wife and three children, Jimmy Buffet’s influence on the music industry and pop culture will carry on long after his passing.

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About the Contributor
Stella Stone ’26
Stella Stone ’26, Features Editor and Social Media Manager
Stella Stone is currently a Features Editor and Social Media Manager for Horizon. Prior to this, she worked as a Staff Writer for the newspaper.
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