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The World Remembers and Celebrates Jimmy Buffett

The long and glorious life of James William Buffett saw him go from the humblest of roots to the zenith of success, from playing guitar in bars in Key West to becoming a best-selling music icon, best-selling author and business mogul. He was a sailor, a pirate born 200 years too late, a surfer, a surrogate dad, a friend, and an inspiration to chase one’s dreams. Buffet’s Margaritaville was not just a hit song and the namesake of his financial empire, it was a state of mind — it was permission for everyone, everywhere, to relax and enjoy.

He was not just larger than life, he was a lifestyle.

Jimmy Buffett passed away on Friday at the age of 76. An outpouring of love, memories and heartache has filled every corner of the media landscape, celebrating a good man and a life magnificently lived.

Buffett was apparently suffering from a rare form of skin cancer for the past four years. He had rescheduled concerts set for spring 2024 because he’d reportedly been hospitalized for unspecified “immediate health concerns.”

This notice was posted on Jimmy Buffett’s Instagram page.
© 2023

It would not be very Jimmy Buffett of us to let our sadness linger for too long. Besides, it’s impossible to think of him as gone — Buffett released 29 studio albums, authored eight books, and branded a ton of restaurants, merchandise and swag as well as a cruise line and a retirement community. His salty-sweet mark has been made on the world.

Surely Jimmy Buffett’s successes were informed by his struggles. He was a starving artist, too, and when he made it, he worked so hard as to ironically defy the laid-back lifestyle he’d given everyone permission to enjoy.

We’re curious what your tribute to Jimmy Buffett would be, and how he drifted into your sailing lives — musically, in print, or maybe in the flesh — over the years. Please comment below, or email us here.

Fair winds and following seas, captain.
© 2023 Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers

Here are a few tributes from around the world:

Captain Liz Clark wrote, “Jimmy! Your albums were the soundtrack to my childhood; lyrical stories that helped me make sense of a crazy world and fueled my rebellious sailing dreams. Your familiar songs united my family and brought lightness in a way nothing else did. And after all those years of listening to you sing over and over, to cross paths in the South Pacific? To ride waves together, sing on your stage, have you aboard and laugh like two ol’ pirates with treasure chests full of memories from chasing our wild dreams?”

Liz Clark and Jimmy Buffett, somewhere in the South Pacific.
© 2023 @captainlizclark

Clark continued, “To whatever universal force I owe the immeasurable blessing of meeting you, getting scratched up on the reef with you, thank you. Ending up in that One Particular Harbor couldn’t have been random.

“I’m absolutely gutted to have to say goodbye, but you left us with so damn much — all those beloved songs are an example of the magic that can happen when we follow our bliss, keep it fun and navigate with humor, grace, and a childlike curiosity.”

That 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater with Jimmy B.
© 2023 @kellyslater

Surfer Kelly Slater wrote, “I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett with my family. His music basically outlined the lives we desired: fishing, diving, dreaming about being in the tropics, playing music, living the dream.

“I met Jimmy in France in 2010, about eight years after my dad died. I told him how much he reminded me of my own father, and from that moment on, he kind of became a surrogate to me, occasionally calling me from some far-off land telling me he missed me. I’m not sure I’ve met many people with as positive an attitude. (Jimmy laughed about making a living out of three-chord songs and once told me, ‘Ya know, if Jack Johnson would just let me do his marketing I could make him a lot of money!’)

“Jimmy passed on to the next life — I’m having a tough time accepting that, but I feel blessed to have had some incredible memories every single time I hung out with him, whether it was him flying me to my brother’s bachelor party in Key West, making me play a song with him at his restaurant, or giving me his guest house in Palm Beach and taking me for a round of golf the next day.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, Jimmy, and I know you’d be smoking a joint with a drink in your hand and a huge smile — like any good pirate would. Thanks for being one of the good guys.”

That’s Kelly Slater, left, Mr. James Buffet (as no one called him) and pro surfer Stephanie Gilmore.
© 2023 The Internet/Jerad Williams

Latitude 38 founder Richard Spindler shared on his Facebook page a video of Buffett performing on David Letterman, and “talking about almost killing himself at the Howard Johnson’s in Marin. Funny in retrospect,” Spindler wrote.

Buffett told Letterman that writing the song Come Monday brought him back from the brink. “I was desperately depressed. I was at a Howard Johnson’s under Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, living there, and playing in San Anselmo. It was awful, and I wrote this song, and it hit and the rest is history.” (Like many huge fans of Buffett’s music, I found myself humming Come Monday for hours and hours a few days ago.)

Spindler and Buffett’s relationship runs deep:

From left, and seen aboard ‘ti Profligate, that’s Eddy of Eddy’s Restaurant in St. Barth, Mr. Jimmy Buffett, Jean-Marc Lefranc, owner of the famed Baz Bar, and Doña de Mallorca posing for Richard Spindler.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Richard Spindler
Richard Spindler photographs Jimmy Buffett again, this time as the Drifter plays in St. Barth in the early 2000s.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Richard Spindler

“Jimmy Buffett just happened to be walking home past the Baz Bar [in St. Barth] after the last day of [a regatta], and was asked to play a few tunes,” wrote Richard Spindler, who took this photo in 2011. “He walked home, got his guitar, and came back to play four or five songs.”
Buffett seemed to touch a little bit of everything in culture:

Jimmy Buffett enjoys really good seats at an NBA game. The Miami Heat tweeted [or “Xed”] that Buffett was a longtime season ticket holder. “Jimmy knew well the power that music and sports have of bringing people together,” the Heat wrote.
© 2023 The Internet/Facebook
That’s Jimmy Buffett on the left — as seen through the legs of Robin Williams— making a cameo as a pirate in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 classic Hook. Musician/sailor David Crosby also had a cameo in the movie.
© 2023 The Internet/TriStar Pictures
Just when you thought you couldn’t like Jimmy Buffett any more than you did, here’s something for all the Star Wars nerds out there.
© 2023 The Internet
Jimmy Buffet performs for service members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.
© 2023 Wikipedia/MCCS Spike Call
An homage to Jimmy Buffett from Dolly Parton.
© 2023 @partonnews

In a message to Liz Clark, Buffett wrote, “I saw Laird [Hamilton] in New York and told him I had done Teahupo’o [Tahiti] on standup. Of course, I told him it was only six feet. He said, ‘Surfing any wave at Teahupo’o is an accomplishment few can say they did.’ Boy, did that make my old-fart ass feel good.”
© 2023 The Internet
Catch you later, Jimmy B! We’ll bring the margaritas.


  1. John Arndt 3 months ago

    What sailor was ready for the loss of Jimmy Buffett? His upbeat, Caribbean-influenced, tropical sailing vibe certainly brought joy to us and far beyond sailing. Listening to him sing ‘How a Pirate Looks at Forty’ with the line “Mother, mother ocean…” connected to our sailing soul since his album A1A came out in 1974. Hearing ‘Changes in Latitudes’ always connected us with the far-flung cruisers and racers in the Latitude 38 community. His passing got us to look up when that song was released which was in August 1977, just four months after Latitude 38 started with its ‘Changes in Latitudes’ section in its first issue released in April 1977. The sentiment must have been something in the air at the time.

    It amazes us when reading tributes to the larger-than-life character Jimmy Buffett just how many people he knew, how many things he did, and all the relationships created and lives he influenced. Almost every sailor feels like they have a Jimmy Buffett story. Our friend Michael Rossi, who was working for Bill Graham Presents, remembers being locked outside of Shoreline Amphitheater with Jimmy because they were talking planes in the parking lot. At showtime, Jimmy didn’t have his backstage pass to prove who he was and security wouldn’t let him back in! Eventually, they worked it out. We were probably sitting on the lawn then, waiting for him to play.

    For us, his magic was built on the fun-loving, ever-present tropical smile on his face that was also present in everything he did, on every one of his almost endless summer tours, in every song and book that came from an incredibly productive, incredibly hard-working, generous and joyful storyteller and busker turned musical force. How a person like Jimmy Buffett emerges from the chaos of youth is one of the great wonders of the universe and one we greatly appreciate, admire, and will continue to enjoy. “Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call…”

  2. Tim Dick 3 months ago

    I have never seen such an incredible response to anyone’s passing. The past few days have been filled with so many tributes, rare YouTube’s, and posts from everyone from the President on down. His music was the soundtrack of our lives whether on the water or not, he touched us. Thank you Jimmy – the world is a little less colorful and joyful today. RIP…

  3. Harry Abbott 3 months ago

    In ’76 I was anchored in Taiohae in the Marqueses when a friend sailed in with his motley crew. Among them was a beautiful Canadian lass who introduced me to Jimmy Buffet. First song she taught me was, “Let’s get drunk and screw”. By the time I had learned “A pirate looks at 40”, I was hooked. Returning back to my boat one evening, I heard my oldest daughter ask her mother, Mom, why doesn’t that woman ever wear any clothes? That in it self could be a reason why I learned so many J.B. songs but as I drove into Seattle the other day, I put on “Songs you know by heart”. I discovered that some of his music meant more almost 5 decades later than it did then. I could still sing along to almost every one. “There’s so much to see waiting in front of me that I know that I just can’t go wrong”. Thank you, Jimmy Buffet

  4. John GGray 3 months ago

    Sail on, Jimmy Buffet…your music got me thru some hard days.

  5. Chris Waddell 3 months ago

    “So many nights I sit and dream of the ocean
    God, I wish I was sailing again”

    I’ve listened to or sung those lyrics so many times. They’ve taken on an even more special meaning since I’ve been away from my sailboat for 5 years while gradually recovering from a host of medical issues. But I’m very close to returning and should be back in my 110 by this fall. Thanks for the music, Jimmy– because of it, you will always be with us.

  6. We were not huge fans of Jimmy Buffet before we went sailing. Country music has never been my thing, and his big commercial hits like Come Monday never really grabbed me.
    But we finally “got” the Jimmy Buffet mystique when we took off on our 42-foot sailboat, Compania, back in 2001, and spent three years cruising Mexico and Central America. Jimmy’s albums were our soundtrack through the highs and lows, the magical deserted anchorages with gin-clear water and sugar-sand beaches, the sheer exhaustion after multi-night passages, and the many like-minded friends we made along the way.
    With Jimmy’s passing, the song that keeps coming back to me is One Particular Harbor. But not just any recording – it has to be the live version of the Feeding Frenzy album. It became our ritual to play that song as soon as we dropped anchor in a new place. To this day, we associate One Particular Harbor with everything that was great about the cruising lifestyle: the simplicity and freedom from “stuff,” the deep connection with nature, and the camaraderie of fellow travelers.
    Fair winds and following seas, Jimmy. We hope you finally found that one particular harbor.

  7. Sandy Edmonson 3 months ago

    The first time I stepped aboard a sailboat, I was hooked. Years were spent cruising locally and always dreaming of sailing off into the sunset. One day while negotiating heavy traffic, He Went to Paris came on the radio and it was the impetus I needed to buy a cruising boat and sail away. Twelve years of wonderful adventures in Mexico and beyond ensued and Jimmy was right there every day. I will miss knowing that he is somewhere on our big blue planet but his music will live on forever. Sail on, Jimmy.

  8. Denise de Joseph 3 months ago

    “The captain is gone but he won’t be forgotten, nor his likes will we ever see”
    Want to say a big Thank You, Latitude 38, for your tribute to Jimmy and sharing those photos.
    Sail on sailor, you will be greatly missed.

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