The world woke up to the sad news Saturday morning that Jimmy Buffett died at the age of 76. “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” read a statement on his website. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
They haven’t released a cause of death, but he admitted to health problems in recent years, including a hospitalization in May. “I wound up back in the hospital to address some issues that needed immediate attention,” he wrote to fans in May, explaining why he couldn’t play a show in Charleston, South Carolina. “Growing old is not for sissies…You all make my life more meaningful and fulfilled that I would have ever imagined as a toe headed [sic] little boy sitting on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts, you amazing years of loyalty.”
Buffett was one of the most successful touring acts of the past four decades. It simply didn’t feel like summer if he wasn’t hitting the ampitheater circuit, and bringing his devoted army of Parrotheads along for the ride.
His shows became slightly more sporadic over the past few years, but he began 2023 by playing four gigs in Key West, Florida, before taking the show to to Las Vegas; Thousand Palms, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and ultimately San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium on May 6. It was the first show at the new stadium, and Buffett’s final full concert.
Like all Buffett concerts, the setlist was heavy on singalong favorites like “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Last Mango in Paris,” “Fins,” and “Margaritaville.” The set wrapped up with “Southern Cross.” It’s a 1982 Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, but it became a Buffett staple in 1996. He played it over 830 times. Here’s fan-shot video of the last performance in San Diego:
Buffett’s last public appearance took place June 11 at the The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, New York. It was a show by his longtime bandmate Peter Mayer, but Buffett took the stage at the end to surprise the audience with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and his own songs, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”
“A Pirate Looks at Forty,” written for Buffett’s 1974 LP A1A, is about an aging outlaw that wishes he was born in an earlier time. “Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found,” he sings at the end. “My occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around/ I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown.”
There appears to be no video of this final “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” but it’s a fitting final parting song for Buffett. The handful of people in the audience that night got to see something very special.