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Jimmy Buffett

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Describing his songs as "90 percent autobiographical," a statement attested to by his colorful narratives of wine, women and song, Mississippi born Jimmy Buffett has translated his easygoing Gulf Coast persona into more than just a successful recording career -- he has expanded into clothing, restaurant/nightclubs, and literature. But the basis of the business empire that keeps him on the Fortune magazine list of highest-earning entertainers is his music.

Buffett moved to Nashville to try to make it in country music in the late '60s. Signed to Barnaby, he released one album, Down to Earth (1970); its most noteworthy single, a socially conscious song called "The Christian", suggested he might be more at home protesting in Greenwich Village. (Barnaby "lost" his second album, High Cumberland Jubilee, though they would find it and release it after he became successful.) Instead, he moved to Key West, FL, where he gradually created the beach bum character and tropical folk-rock style that would endear him to millions.

Signing to ABC-Dunhill Records (later absorbed by MCA), Buffett achieved notoriety but not much else with his second (released) album, White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973), which featured a song called, "Why Don't We Get Drunk" ("... and Screw?" goes the chorus). Buffett revealed a more thoughtful side on Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974), with its song of marital separation "Come Monday," his first singles chart entry. But it took the Top Ten song "Margaritaville" and the album in which it was featured, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977), to fully capture Buffett's tropical world view and, for a while, turn him into a pop star.

By the start of the '80s, Buffett's yearly albums had stopped going gold, and he briefly tried the country market again. But by the middle of the decade, it was his yearly summer tours that were filling his bank account, as a steadily growing core of Sun Belt fans he dubbed "Parrotheads" made his concerts into Mardi Gras-like affairs. Buffett launched his Margaritaville line of clothes and opened the first of his Margaritaville clubs in Key West. He also turned to fiction writing, landing on the book best-seller lists.

Even as he took a hiatus from recording new material in the early 1990s, a hits compilation sold millions, a 1990 live album, Feeding Frenzy, went gold, and a 1992 boxed set retrospective, Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads, became one of the best-selling boxed sets ever. Buffett finally got around to making a new album in 1994, when Fruitcakes became one of his fastest-selling records. It was followed in 1995 by Barometer Soup, Banana Wind and Christmas Island (1996) and Don't Stop the Carnival (1998).

Carnival was the soundtrack to an adaptation of Herman Wouk's Don't Stop The Carnival, and an interesting stylistic diversion for the singer. In 1999 he launched his own Mailboat label, ending a long association with major labels. He also runs Radio Margaritaville, a free-form, 24-hour Internet radio station.

In late July 2004, Jimmy's new CD "License to Chill," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Amazing though it may seem, given his successful track record, this is the first No. 1 album that he has garnered.

© 2004