KEY WEST, FLA. (WSVN) - Thousands gathered in Key West to bid a final farewell to Jimmy Buffett — island-life style.
The singer and songwriter, known for his hits “Margaritaville” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere, died Friday at age 76.
A rare, aggressive form of skin cancer quieted five decades of easygoing, laid-back music which chased the blues away for millions of devoted fans.
Sunday afternoon, dozens of so-called “parrotheads” lined up along Duval Street to celebrate a man who inspired a way of life.
“I firmly believe that Jimmy Buffett will hear you,” said a participant as he spoke through a bullhorn.
Marchers sang some of Buffett’s best-known hits.
It was a trip to the Conch Republic in 1971 that changed Buffett’s his burgeoning country music career.
“I think that Key West was Jimmy Buffett. Jimmy Buffett was Key West in its own essence,” said organizer Jordan Upchurch. “He loved this island so much.”
Born on Christmas Day in Mississippi in 1946, Buffett grew up in Alabama, but he would find his passion far from U.S. shores, along the Gulf of Mexico.
“I love the Caribbean through a sort of a strange way,” Buffett said in an interview with Larry King. “My grandfather is a sailing ship captain, and he sang the calypso songs, so all this sort of amalgamation of material came in and came back out, and I learned to be a performer, and that gave me the vehicle to do it.”
Buffett called his signature sound “Gulf and Western,” but the beachy mix of country and Caribbean music came to be called “trop rock.”
In 2015, Buffett was the star attraction at the $150 million Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort’s grand opening.
By 2020, Forbes tallied Buffett’s branded restaurants, books, beer, resorts, a Broadway show, cruise line and even three retirement communities as a multibillion-dollar success story.
Florida was always a popular stop. He performed at the Miami Marine Stadium in 1985 and helped ring in the new year in 2020 in Palm Beach.
Buffett also used his platform to support Democratic candidates — in 2016 during the gubernatorial race and in 2018 in the presidential race, where he was introduced by a future President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
Buffett wore his trademark flip-flops and sunglasses when he gave the commencement speech at the University of Miami in 2015.
He shared the following formula for success with the new graduates.
“Talent is about 10%. Luck, 20, worth ethic, 30, and passion, 40,” he said. “Passion is the most important ingredient of all to me. Passion, not profit, should always be your guide.”
Organizers of Sunday’s event in Key West said 4,000 people turned out. They had planned to have a moment of silence, but they couldn’t because people were so passionate about celebrating Buffett.
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