KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) – The whole world went “Margaritaville” on Saturday, from Key West to New York City and beyond, as legions of fans mourned the beach-goer’s death Jimmy Buffett at the age of 76.
Buffett’s eponymous hit has long been the anthem of Florida’s Key West, where Buffett once lived and built his enduring legacy.
“Everyone equates this song with our town,” said Clayton Lopez, a Key West city commissioner. “I mean, when you say Margaritaville, you mean the city of Key West.”
The community planned a Sunday of remembrance along Duval Street, home to some of Key West’s most well-known restaurants and music venues, including the Chart Room, a dive bar where Buffett sang early in his career.
“He’s doing another show now, but it’s in heaven,” said Jimmy Weekley, who owns Fausto, a restaurant that’s one of Key West’s landmarks.
Buffett’s fan base was widespread, and tributes poured in on Saturday.
President Joe Biden offered his condolences to Buffett’s family “and the millions of fans who will continue to love him even as his ship sails to new shores.” Former President Bill Clinton wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Buffett’s “music has made millions of people happy.” Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote, “Love and mercy, Jimmy Buffett,” and Paul McCartney called him “one of the kindest, most generous people.”
Matt Urben, a self-proclaimed parrothead, as Buffett fans call it, and a resident of Brooklyn, awoke to the news of Buffett’s death. He was reminiscing with fellow fans in New York City.
“I actually got emotional,” said Urben, 32, who said he’s seen 48 Buffett concerts since he was in college. “They were really special and really fun. … Just so many stories and so many memories.”
He and a pal then went to Times Square’s Margaritaville restaurant — part of the Buffett business empire — which describes itself as “an island-inspired oasis in the middle of New York City.”
When “Margaritaville” played, Reid Johnson sang along. He is not a Parrothead, he said: “I know his music very well.”
Jeanne Fetner was traveling from Northern Virginia with her daughter Avery to attend colleges in New York City when she heard the news. She went to Margaritaville to celebrate Buffett, whose ode to a beef patty and bun, “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” is her favorite song.
Fetner recalled visiting Key West years ago during spring break.
“My friends and I went to Buffett’s house and rang his doorbell,” Fetner said. Buffett’s daughter, Savannah, showed up and told the group, “My dad can’t come out, but he wanted to thank you for coming,” she said.
Tracy Smith, from Tampa, Fla., arrived with her daughters at the Times Square Restaurant between Broadway shows.
“We also traveled here to pay tribute to Jimmy Buffett,” she said while sipping on a margarita.
“I bought all his music,” she said, “I love him and I love his mood. He makes people happy.”
Calvan reported from New York City.