Jimmy Buffett Sails On
Jimmy Buffett’s death at age 76 on the eve of Labor Day Weekend prompted a tremendous outpouring of news coverage and tributes from fans and others around the globe whose lives were touched by the iconic singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur.
Buffett’s impact on Key West is incalculable. Generations of Key Westers have come of age on an island that the world now knows as “Margaritaville,” and Buffett’s brand of low-key loafing and aspirational island living are inseparable from the island city where the Mississippi-born Buffett first discovered it all. As art imitates life and life imitates art, Buffett’s prodigal 1970s songbook gave fictional form to a Key West cast of characters and lifestyle he knew in his bones, while firmly establishing conventions that Key West residents and visitors have followed ever since.
Buffett was a literary powerhouse as well, one of only six writers, including Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, to reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists for both fiction and nonfiction. He was an early champion of Key West Literary Seminar and had served on our honorary board of directors since 1987. Our organization, like so many others in Key West, is indebted to Jimmy for helping to put us on the map those many years ago.
As you might expect, Key Westers turned out in force to pay their respects over the long Labor Day weekend (some have suggested the holiday be renamed “Leisure Day” in Jimmy’s honor). Key West Mayor Teri Johnston ordered flags in the City to fly at half-mast, and a single loudspeaker was placed on the steps of City Hall, where it blared Buffett tunes all weekend long. On Sunday, nearly 10,000 people turned out to parade down Duval Street in Buffett’s honor.
For a look at Buffett’s legacy from the end of the road, check out KWLS board president Nancy Klingener’s report from Key West for the New York Times; Rob Smith-Martin’s personal recollection of the early days of the Margaritaville empire, “Remember When Margaritaville Was a Mom & Pop Shop?”; and, especially, his sister Lucy Buffett’s tribute in the Key West Citizen.
According to Lucy, “He didn’t care about resting in peace. The last words he whispered to me were, ‘Have fun.'”