Throughout his career, the renowned singer-songwriter collaborated on songs with Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Chesney.
Jimmy Buffett, the musical troubadour famous for his rum-soaked island-tinged anthems like “Margaritaville,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” as well as his empire of enterprises including his chain of Margaritaville cafés, passed away on Friday, September 1 at the age of 76.
Jimmy passed away on the evening of September 1st surrounded by his loved ones, friends, music, and dogs, according to a post that appeared on his official website early on Saturday morning, September 2. “He will be sorely missed by so many and lived his life like a song until the very last breath.”
The Alabama-born, Mississippi-born, and Buffett became a household name because to his carefree songs and vibrant stage performances, yet a large portion of his musical roots were in Nashville. Five decades after some of his earliest concerts, Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band gave a private performance at Exit/In in Music City’s Elliston Place neighborhood in 2021. Buffett and musicians like Steve Martin helped Exit/In become one of Nashville’s most storied music clubs, launching what would become known as the city’s historic “Rock Block,” along with businesses like The End and The Gold Rush. The club would act as Buffett’s musical career’s springboard.
In the late 1960s, Buffett made the move to Nashville with the intention of pursuing a career in country music. From 1969 to 1970, he worked as a Nashville reporter for Billboard, where he is credited with breaking the news of the dissolution of the bluegrass duet Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Due to the Down to Earth album’s 1970 release, his time at Billboard was short.
A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, his follow-up album from 1973, was recorded at Tompall Glaser’s Nashville studio, which would eventually become known as “Hillbilly Central.” The title is a play on a Marty Robbins classic. There are hints of the Key West vibes that Buffett would come to be known for, even though the record was more inspired by Nashville than the islands. The song “Railroad Lady,” written by Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker and featured on the album, attests to Buffett’s influence as a songwriter. It was later covered by Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. Another song from the album, “He Went to Paris,” was covered by Waylon Jennings for his 1980 album, Music Man, and Doug Supernaw recorded the song in 1994. In addition, Buffett collaborated on the song “Happiness Alone” with Clint Black, which was included on Black’s album No Time to Kill.
The Great Filling Station Holdup (1973), “Come Monday” (1974), and his career-launching songs “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude” and “Margaritaville” from 1977 all appeared on Billboard’s country charts. These songs also reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Additionally, in 1985, he scored a top 20 country hit with “If The Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me.”
Buffett’s commitment to retaining relationships within the country music scene, working with a variety of musicians, helped him win two No. 1 successes on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list and three top 10 hits during the course of his more than five decades in the music business.
A blue-collar worker who is overworked and underpaid and dreams of escaping to the islands is the subject of Buffett and Alan Jackson’s 2003 song “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which became an eight-week No. 1 Country Airplay success. On the Hot 100, the song peaked at number 20. In the same year, Kenny Chesney scored a big hit with the island-themed song “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” demonstrating Buffett’s brand of island escapism was a significant impact on the genre.
But even in his 1998 hit “How Forever Feels,” Chesney paid tribute to Buffett with the line, “Now I know how Jimmy Buffett Feels,” and the tropical setting of the music video helped to establish the “Island Kenny” persona that Chesney would later come to be known for in songs and music videos like “When the Sun Goes Down.” The tropically themed “Two Pina Coladas,” written by Benita Hill, Shawn Camp, and Sandy Mason, became a hit for Garth Brooks in 1998 as well. The writers had originally considered offering the song to Jimmy Buffett before presenting it to Brooks. Jimmy songs like “Toes,” “Jump Right In,” and “Knee Deep,” their No. 1 hit duet Jimmy Buffett from 2011, Zac Brown Band carved up a successful career.
In a 2021 interview with Billboard, Buffett stated, “Of course, we were a significant part of that when current country carried it to the beach.
Notably, License to Chill, a compilation of largely country collaborations with singers like Chesney, George Strait, Clint Black, Martina McBride, Jackson, and Toby Keith, became Buffett’s lone Billboard 200-topping album of his career in 2004.
Buffett’s 2021 Exit/In event featured a surprise appearance from Chesney, who sent a tribute to Buffett on social media with the caption, “So farewell Jimmy. I appreciate your friendship and the music you gave me; I will always treasure them. Sailor, sail on. Previously, the two hitmakers worked together on the song “Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season.” In a subsequent video, Chesney described the song as “true poetry” and “a true reflection of Jimmy’s ability to tell a story, to capture a moment, and to paint a picture of that moment.” “I’m not sure that Jimmy gets the credit that he deserves as being a poet,” he continued, “like a true songwriter, storyteller poet, a lot like [Ernest] Hemingway was in his time.”