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Remembering Jimmy Buffett

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jimmy Buffett has died at the age of 76, surrounded by family, friends, music and dogs, according to a statement on his official website. He was best known for his song "Margaritaville," about a young man who lives by the beach who watches the world go by and contemplates his life choices.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARGARITAVILLE")

JIMMY BUFFETT: (Singing) Nibblin' on sponge cake. Watchin' the sun bake. All of those tourists covered with oil.

SIMON: In 1999, he told MORNING EDITION's Bob Edwards how he felt about his legendary song.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BUFFETT: I love doing the shows. And, you know, people say, how the hell can you play "Margaritaville" for the 257,000th time? And it's because I watch the crowd. And it - you know, it's their song. It's not mine. I'm just singing. It's background music to their lives. And that's the way I look at it.

SIMON: It was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 22 weeks. Born in Pascagoula, Miss., on Christmas Day in 1946, Jimmy Buffett said he only picked up a guitar when he reached college. He flunked college on his first try but eventually earned a degree in history. That's when he moved to Nashville, where he worked as a journalist and began recording music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE")

BUFFETT: (Singing) Tried to amend my carnivorous habits. Made it nearly 70 days. Losing weight without speed, eatin' sunflower seeds. Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soaking up rays.

SIMON: In a career that spanned five decades, he released 29 studio albums. He described his musical style as drunken Caribbean rock 'n roll and sang songs about pirates, smugglers and beach bums. He told The Washington Post in 1989 that he wasn't old, but he was getting older, and he didn't regret his days of hard drinking and hard drugging.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SON OF A SON OF A SAILOR")

BUFFETT: (Singing) As the son of a son of a sailor, I went out on the sea for adventure. Expanding the view of the captain and crew like a man just released from indenture.

SIMON: Jimmy Buffett toured almost constantly with his Coral Reefer Band, and his performances earned a dedicated following. His fans became known as Parrotheads and went to his concerts wearing Hawaiian shirts, sharks and flamingo hats and toy parrots. He was also a successful author and a hugely accomplished businessman. He built a business empire called Margaritaville Holdings that included resorts, restaurants, clothing, even a retirement community. This year, Forbes estimated his worth at $1 billion. But despite all that, Jimmy Buffett will ultimately be remembered for his laid-back music - for songs like "Oysters And Pearls." He told NPR...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BUFFETT: You know, it's a little bit of wisdom, and I hope I'm passing it along. You know, I was fortunate enough to have a lot of wisdom, you know, come to me through my family in stories and through family history. And it is, you know? And I'd love to be an old, wise person one day. And, you know, and maybe these, you know, "Oysters And Pearls" is something that I'm very proud of. And I hope it does help my kids understand the world a little better.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OYSTERS AND PEARLS")

BUFFETT: (Singing) Some never fade away. Some crash and burn. Some make the world go around. Others watch it turn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.