KEY WEST — All the world was “Margaritaville” on Saturday, from Key West to New York City and beyond, as legions of fans mourned the passing of beach-bum balladeer Jimmy Buffett at the age of 76.
Buffett’s eponymous hit song has long been the anthem of Florida’s Key West, where Buffett once lived and built his enduring legacy.
“Everybody equates that song with our city,” said Clayton Lopez, a Key West city commissioner. “I mean, when you say Margaritaville, you’re talking about the city of Key West.”
The community planned a remembrance Sunday along Duval Street, home to some of Key West’s most well-known eateries 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 the sky,” said Jimmy Weekley, who owns Fausto, a restaurant that is one of Key West’s landmarks.
Buffett’s fandom was widespread, and tributes poured in Saturday.
President Joe Biden sent condolences to Buffett’s family “and to the millions of fans who will continue to love him even as his ship now sails for new shores.” Former President Bill Clinton wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Buffett’s “music brought happiness to millions of people.” Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote: “Love and Mercy, Jimmy Buffett,” and Paul McCartney called him “one of the kindest and most generous people.”
Matt Urben, a self-described Parrothead, as Buffett fans are known, and a Brooklyn resident, awoke to news of Buffett’s death. He joined fellow fans in New York City to reminisce.
“I actually got emotional,” said Urben, 32, who said he’d seen 48 Buffett concerts since his college days. “They were really special and really fun. ... Just so many stories and so many memories.”
Afterward, he and a buddy headed to the Margaritaville restaurant in Times Square — 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. By no means a Parrothead, he said, “I’m very familiar with his music.”
Jeanne Fetner had traveled from Northern Virginia with her daughter Avery to visit 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 a visit to Key West years ago on spring break.
“My friends and I went to Buffett’s house and rang the bell on his door,” Fetner recounted. Buffett’s daughter Savannah appeared and told the group, “My dad can’t come out but he wanted to thank you for coming,” she said.
Tracy Smith, from Tampa, Florida, arrived at the Times Square restaurant with her daughters in between Broadway shows.
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“We made a trip here to pay a tribute to Jimmy Buffett, too,” she said while sipping on a margarita.
“I bought all his music,” she said, “I love him and I love his vibe. He makes people happy.”
By Bobby Caina Calvan and Andy Newman of the Associated Press
Calvan reported from New York City.