KEY WEST, Fla. — A large-scale sand sculpture memorializing the late singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett was completed Saturday in Key West, the island where he developed the signature “tropical rock” style and laidback persona that helped make him a musical icon.
Buffett, who died Sept. 1, discovered Key West in the early 1970s and the island’s influence is widely credited with inspiring many of his most enduring songs, including the hit “Margaritaville.” He called Key West home during some of his most productive years and frequently referenced its characters, landmarks and freewheeling lifestyle in song lyrics.
“One thing we experienced this week when we were creating this sculpture is really the deep feeling of loss for Jimmy and how much he means to Key West and how he touched people’s lives — that, in one way or another, everybody is in Key West because of him, or at least exposed to him,” said sand sculptor Marianne van den Broek, whose Key West company Just Sand and Water co-crafted the Buffett tribute with Florida’s Sandsational Sand Sculpting.
In the mid-1980s Buffett founded the original Margaritaville Store on the island, and his unmarked Shrimpboat Sound recording studio overlooks the former shrimp docks.
Following the announcement of his death, fans left tributes at both places. A Sept. 3 march celebrating Buffett’s life, organized by locals Paul Menta and Jordan Upchurch, drew several thousand participants to parade along Key West’s Duval Street.
The sand sculpture stands at the home of longtime Buffett friend Joe Cleghorn on a block where the entertainer once lived and partied.
“So the elements in the sand sculpture that are related to Jimmy Buffett are, of course, the man himself; we added the shrimp boat to reference the Shrimpboat studios, parrot, margarita, flowers — everything paradise has to offer,” said van den Broek.
It also features a guitar bearing the title of a song written by Mark Tamburino, Rex Schnelle and Cleghorn.
Jimmy Buffett's final Key West performances took place in February 2023, when he kicked off his "Second Wind Tour" with four unforgettable shows on the island that inspired his celebrated sound.
Sand sculptor Marianne van den Broek finishes a sculpture in Key West memorializing singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett, while musician C.W. Colt looks on. Photo: Rob O'Neal
The sand sculpture stands at the home of longtime Buffett friend Joe Leghorn in a neighborhood where Buffett lived and partied. Photo: Rob O'Neal