Key West Pays Tribute to the Late Jimmy Buffett, a Musical Icon Whose Career Was Shaped by the Island
September 02, 2023 • KW Tourist
KEY WEST, Fla. — On September 1, the world lost an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, who passed away at the age of 76. The island of Key West, where Buffett's music gained its distinctive tropical essence, honored his legacy Saturday.
Jimmy Buffett first stumbled upon Key West in the early 1970s. The island's laid-back lifestyle and idyllic atmosphere have been cited as key influences in many of his most popular songs. Perhaps the most iconic of them all is "Margaritaville," a song so synonymous with Key West that Key West City Commissioner Clayton Lopez stated, "When you say Margaritaville, you’re talking about the city of Key West."
During the years Buffett considered Key West his home, he immortalized various local landmarks and personalities in his songs. Local establishments like Fausto’s Food Palace, the Blue Heaven restaurant, and famed bars such as Captain Tony’s and the Chart Room all found a place in his lyrics. Buffett's songs also paid tribute to larger-than-life local figures, including the late saloon owner Captain Tony Tarracino and the late "pirate" Phil Clark.
Jimmy Weekley, the owner of the landmark Fausto’s Food Palace, pointed out the eerie timing of Buffett's death, mentioning how the singer’s career had initially gained traction with the song "Come Monday," which had lyrics about heading to San Francisco for the Labor Day weekend show. Weekley noted that Buffett had passed away right around the Labor Day weekend and mused that the singer was now "doing another show, but it’s in the sky."
In the mid-1980s, Buffett expanded his empire by opening the Margaritaville Store in Key West’s waterfront Lands End Village. The store now sits beside the original Margaritaville Café on Duval Street, and not far away stands his unmarked recording studio near the old shrimp docks. On Saturday, both locations were decorated with tributes from fans, including flowers, notes, and even saltshakers — an homage to the "lost shaker of salt" lyric in "Margaritaville."
The late singer's depiction of Key West in his music transformed the island into a pilgrimage site for his fans, known as the Parrot Heads, named after the tropical parrot-themed headgear they don at his concerts. In 2011, Buffett surprised his followers with an impromptu 15-song set during their then-annual gathering on the island. Although he had lived elsewhere for many years by then, the artist frequently intermingled his songs with commentary and memories that showcased his enduring love for Key West.
As Clayton Lopez summed up, "No matter wherever else he built a house, or wherever he decided to reside for the moment, Key West was always home for Jimmy Buffett."
In memory of the late singer, a group of Key West locals and city leaders are organizing a "It’s 5 O’Clock in Key West" Second Line Procession. The event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. this Sunday on Duval Street, honoring Buffett's everlasting impact on the island and the world of music.