Wednesday, May 22, 2024

New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett

During the second weekend of the Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans, a special tribute was paid throughout the day to tropical rock artist Jimmy Buffett. A parade and special performance by his band Coral Reefers was held along with a celebration including his family, friends, and bandmates. We loved Jimmy and his music and it was so apparent how many people loved him too during the two days of tributes.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Born on Christmas Day in Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1946, Buffett found his love for music when he was just a young college student, learning to play guitar. Between classes and studying, Buffett had his own band that performed 6 nights a week at clubs on Bourbon Street. After graduating college in ‘69, Buffet headed to Nashville where he released his first album, Down To Earth, in 1970. 

A chance trip to Key West, Florida with fellow musician Jerry Jeff Walker gave life to the island-time music we know Buffett for today. His music is full of stories of wanderlust and adventure, and spoke to his dedicated fanbase of Parrotheads around the world. In 1977 came “Margaritaville,” an anthem about escaping life in the tropics that led Buffett to turn his career into a business empire.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

After 27 studio albums, bestselling books, Billboard charting songs, a Broadway play, his own restaurants, movie and television appearances, Grammy nominations and CMA awards, music still inspired Buffett and kept him going. Sometime in 2019, Buffett was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive skin cancer, Merkel Cell Carcinoma that ultimately took his life in 2023 at the age of 76. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Buffett’s family and friends spent the day on May 4 at Jazz Fest, back in New Orleans where Buffett held his first performances. Buffett was a regular performer at Jazz Fest, even being known to show up and perform on days he was not even scheduled to play. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Jazz Fest producer and director Quint Davis told fans that Buffett didn’t necessarily want a traditional funeral, he just wanted to “keep the party going.” As a result, a second-line Jazz Funeral was held in parade form through the festival grounds in celebration of Buffett’s life in true New Orleans fashion. His daughters Delaney and Savannah led the parade. Many of the participants held up photos of Buffett performing at Jazz Fest as on-lookers cheered, seeing the late artist. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The soundtrack and colorful looks of the parade were provided by the Coral Reefers Band, Smitty Dee’s Brass Band with Dumaine Gang, Family Ties, and The Revolution Social Aid & Pleasure Club. As the procession went on, more fans joined, making their way to the back of the Congo Square Stage field, where painted totems of festival “Ancestors” stand tall above fans. 

@thetraveladdict.com

We paid tribute to Jimmy Buffett at New Orleans Jazz Fest. There was a jazz funeral parade and a musical tribute with the Coral Reefer band. Jimmy loved Jazz Fest and New Orleans and we all loved him back! #jimmybuffett #neworleansjazzfest #neworleans #neworleansjazzandheritagefestival #neworleansjazzfest2024 #parrothead #parrotheads

♬ Margaritaville – Jimmy & The Parrots

Alongside festival Ancestors like Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers, and Dr. John, a beautiful portrait of Jimmy Buffett now stands among them. Members of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band lined up around the Ancestors and performed his song “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” Quint Davis said in his opening remarks, “Technically, this is sad. This is a huge loss. But in New Orleans, we don’t mourn. We celebrate a life.”

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The 20-foot-tall portrait, painted by Philip Cooper was revealed by Quint Davis and followed by a moving speech from Buffett’s daughter, Savannah. She talked about how Jazz Fest was a family tradition “like the Fourth of July, birthdays and even Christmas,” and all of the different performers that her father had played along with over the years. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

To continue his legacy, on Sunday May 5, The Coral Reefers took to the Main Stage at Jazz Fest, starting their set with the famous “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Buffett’s collaboration with Alan Jackson. The group played many other favorites such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Southern Cross,” even dedicating the love song “Come Monday” to Buffett’s wife, Jane.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Louisiana native and touring buddy of Buffett’s, Sonny Landreth joined the band on stage for “I Will Play For Gumbo,” alongside Irma Thomas. A cameo appearance was also made by Trombone Shorty for “Pencil Thin Mustache,” and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band played “University of Bourbon Street.”

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Throughout the set, bandmates and friends shared stories and memories of Buffett. “New Orleans is where Jimmy Buffett figured out how to be Jimmy Buffett,” a bandmate said. The executive director of Jazz Fest and friend of Buffett, Quint Davis joined Buffett’s daughter Savannah and other members of his family on stage toward the end. The band finished the tribute with songs “Fins” and “Margaritaville.”

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest Pays Tribute To Jimmy Buffett
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Jimmy Buffett couldn’t have been celebrated in a better way than with his family and friends at Jazz Fest 2024. His ancestral portrait will live on with the Jazz Fest legends for the rest of time and his music will live on for even longer. Long live Buffett and his Parrotheads! We will never forget his legacy. 

Words by Emily Cigan @emily.cigan and Amy Harris @thetraveladdictig

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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