Jimmy Buffett dies at 76. Singer turned Key West lifestyle into a business empire

Jimmy Buffett, the singer-songwriter whose laidback Key West sound earned him a legion of “Parrothead” fans and spawned a musical and business empire, has died at the age of 76.

His death was announced in a statement on his social media and websites late Friday.

“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” the statement read. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”

The statement did not provide a cause of death but illness had forced him to reschedule concerts in May, and Buffett acknowledged in social media posts that he had been hospitalized, but provided no specifics.

According to reports, including NBC News, Buffett had been battling skin cancer.

PHOTOS: See Jimmy Buffett through the years: Early photos of concerts and appearances in Florida

But in May, he took to Twitter and his webpage to tell his faithful Parrotheads why he had to postpone the final concert of his Second Wind Tour in Charleston, South Carolina. He said he was in a Boston hospital but upbeat and undergoing treatments.

“I finish up my treatments tomorrow and heading home to Sag Harbor for a while, and then head to the Bahamas for a fishing trip with old friends, along with paddling and sailing and get myself back in good shape,” Buffett told the Miami Herald in an email. “Once I am in shape, we will look at the when’s and where’s of shows. I think playing is as therapeutic to me to play as they are for fans to listen, and sing along.”

Buffett, who spent years developing his signature sound in Key West — his band was known as the Coral Reefers — became one of the most beloved entertainers in America with hits like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” He also was a successful and shrewd marketer and businessman, with a net worth of around $600 million. Buffett’s music and business empire includes restaurants, casinos, hotels and beach resorts, a retirement village, a cruise liner, clothing and publishing. Plus 29 studio albums, and as many live albums and compilations combined, plus a handful of books.

“Margaritaville,” released on Feb. 14, 1977, quickly took on a life of its own, becoming a state of mind for those ”wastin’ away,” an excuse for a life of low-key fun and escapism for those “growing older, but not up.”

The song — from the album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” — spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No. 8. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 for its cultural and historic significance, became a karaoke standard and helped brand Key West, Florida, with a distinct sound of music and as a destination known the world over.

In the May post announcing his illness, Buffett told fans:: “These few words from Mark Twain about life changes, seemed perfect to pass on at this time. ‘Challenges,’ he said, ‘make life interesting, however overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.’”