Songs of the Gulf Coast: A Tribute to Jimmy Buffett

“Margaritaville” is a 1977 song by the popular American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, taken from his album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” This song was inspired by Buffett’s visit to the Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant (now located at High 5) in Austin, Texas, on 2700 W. Anderson Lane, surrounded by the influx of tourists from Florida at the time. He had written most of the song one night at a friend’s house in Austin and completed it while spending time in Key West, Florida.

In the United States, “Margaritaville” reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topped the Easy Listening chart. It also made it to number 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Billboard placed it at number 14 in its 1977 Pop Singles year-end chart. This song marked Buffett’s highest-charting solo single.

The Margarita-themed song “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett depicts a carefree lifestyle in a tropical locale in its lyrics. The song’s popularity in Buffett’s career is highlighted by the CD’s title, “Songs You Know by Heart: Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hit(s),” which ironically refers to the song in the plural. The phrase is also used in other Buffett compilation albums like “Meet Me in Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection” and is associated with other products that Buffett is licenced to sell (see below). The song was featured in the 2017 musical “Escape to Margaritaville,” along with other Buffett tunes. Its enduring popularity over the years is evidence of both the song’s

The song received mentions in Blake Shelton’s 2004 single “Some Beach” and Alan Jackson’s 2003 single “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” where he sang a duet with Alan Jackson.

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Due to its cultural and historical significance, “Margaritaville” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016. The song was chosen by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the United States National Recording Registry in 2023 because of its “cultural, historical, or aesthetic importance.” Buffett also used the name for a network of hotels.

The song is about a person spending their entire life in a seaside resort community, with three verses describing their daily activities. In the first verse, they spend their time playing the guitar on the porch, watching tourists soak up the sun, eating sponge cake, and waiting for the shrimp to boil. In the second verse, they have nothing to show for their time except for a woman’s tattoo that they can’t remember. In the third and final verse, they put their foot on a bottle cap, cut their heel, and ruin their flip-flop, then return home with a fresh batch of margaritas to numb their pain. In live performances, Buffett has sung, “I stepped on a pop-top, cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.”

The three choruses reveal that the narrator is reflecting on a recent failed romance, with their friends telling them that it might not be entirely the woman’s fault. Each chorus demonstrates a changing attitude toward the situation: first, “It’s nobody’s fault,” then, “It could be my fault,” and finally, “It’s my own damn fault.” The song tells a story that is not so much about the sunny pleasures of life in the sun but rather almost its opposite; it’s a gradual realization of a man as he drowns his sorrows in alcohol, that it was his foolish actions that ruined his chances with the woman he loved. The song’s appeal is partly due to the clever way this developed narrative is condensed into just a few words at the end of each chorus.

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According to Buffett, this song has a “lost verse,” which he frequently inserted during live performances to make the song more radio-friendly before recording it. To further refine it for the single release.

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