On Friday, September 1, at the age of 76, the world bid farewell to the renowned singer-songwriter, Jimmy Buffett. Buffett, known for hits like “Margaritaville,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” as well as his empire of businesses, including the Margaritaville café chain, lA lasting impression that will forever resonate within the realms of music and entertainment.
In a post on his official website on Saturday morning, September 2, it was written, “Jimmy passed away on the night of September 1, surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs. He lived his life like a song, and many will fondly remember him.”
Born in Mississippi and raised in Alabama, Buffett gained global stardom thanks to his carefree hits and vibrant stage shows, but most of his musical roots were deeply intertwined with Nashville. In 2021, Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band played an intimate show – Exit/In at Nashville’s historic Elliston Place – marking their first performance in the city’s small club scene in five decades. This club will serve as a launching pad for Buffett’s music career, while artists like Steve Martin will help establish Exit/In as Nashville’s most revered music club, fittingly known as a part of the city’s historic “Rock Block,” along with The End and The Gold Rush, among others.
Buffett ventured to Nashville in the late 1960s with aspirations to make a mark in country music during his career. He worked as a reporter for Billboard from 1969 to 1970, where he is credited with breaking the news of the breakup of the bluegrass duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1969. His tenure at Billboard was brief, primarily due to the release of his first album in 1970, which was, in his words, “behavioral.”
His breakthrough, the 1973 album “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean” (featuring a twist on Marty Robbins’ hit “El Paso”), was recorded at Tompall Glaser’s Nashville studio and later became known as “Hillbilly Central.” While this album is more associated with Nashville than the islands, traces of Buffett’s island influence can be heard, notably in the song “Railroad L”Lady,” a collaborative effort between Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker, found its way into the recordings of Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson as well.
Waylon Jennings covered the island-themed “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” on his 1980 album, “Music Man.” Buffett also co-wrote “Happiness Alone” with Clint Black, which became a hit song featured on Black’s album “No Time to Kill.”
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many of Buffett’s songs ranked on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, including “The Great Filling Station Holdup” (1973), “Come Monday” (1974), and his star-making 1977 hits, including “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and “Margaritaville,” which would go on to reach the top 10 on the Hot 100 chart and peak at number 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. In 1985, “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me” also earned a place in the top 20 on the country charts.
During his career spanning more than five decades, Buffett achieved two number-one hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, along with three top-10 hits, all while maintaining a partial allegiance to the country music community, thanks to his desire to keep collaborations alive with various country artists. A series of artists.
Buffett’s 2003 collaboration with Alan Jackson – “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” a song that humorously depicts a working-class, low-wage blue-collar worker dreaming of escaping to the islands – became a number-one country airplay hit for eight weeks. This song also reached the top 20 on the Hot 100 chart. That same year, Kenny Chesney earned a big hit with the island-themed “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” proving the significant impact of Buffett’s island escapism brand.
In fact, even during his hit “How Forever Feels” in 1998, Chesney paid homage to Buffett, saying, “Now I know how Jimmy Buffett feels,” while the video’s tropical vibes helped reinforce Chesney’s image as a laid-back beach-loving artist, leading him to become known as the “Island Kenny” in subsequent songs and videos like “When the Sun Goes Down.” In addition, in 1998, Garth Brooks also earned a hit with the island-themed “Two Pina Coladas,” a song written primarily with Buffett in mind but ultimately presented to Brooks. In 2009, “Toes,” and the 2011 number-one hit collaboration with Buffett, “Knee Deep,” saw Zac Brown Band infuse their own island jam band vibes.
In a 2021 interview, Buffett told Billboard, “When the contemporary country brought it to the beach, obviously we were a big part of it.”
Especially in 2004, Buffett’s career-defining compilation “License to Chill,” which featured a collection of his top-charting albums, was a gathering of mostly country collaborations, including artists such as Chesney, George Strait, Clint Black, Martina McBride, Jackson, and Toby Keith.
Chesney, who was a surprise guest during Buffett’s show
“To Drink to Karaoke” (with Toby Keith)
Keith was featured on this Buffett track, which was part of Buffett’s 2013 album, “Songs from St. Somewhere.”
This humorous story centers around a wild karaoke night. A long line of karaoke enthusiasts waits at a popular nightlife spot, and as the evening unfolds, and the margarita flow continues, a tipsy narrator takes the stage.
They sing, “No need to rehearse, or even know the key/Just prove the principle of inebriety.”
Jimmy Buffett’s contributions to country music and his collaborations with country artists have left an indelible mark on the genre. His ability to blend island vibes with country sounds has created a unique and enduring legacy that continues to influence musicians today.