In May 2003, Jimmy Buffett’s father, James Delaney “J.D.” Buffett, died from Alzheimer’s disease at age 83. Jimmy and his mother were with J.D. in 1995 when he received his heartbreaking diagnosis. “My dad just breathed very deep, looked at us both, laughed his familiar laugh, and in a disbelieving tone said, ‘Goddamn,'” Jimmy recalled in “A Pirate Looks at Fifty.”
According to Jimmy, his father wasn’t happy when he decided to become a musician, but they later put aside their differences. J.D. even eventually expressed pride in his son for chasing his dream, and Jimmy’s song “False Echoes” is about his father. “I’ve never performed that song live. I don’t know if I could,” the singer told Time in 1998.
Four months after his father’s death, Jimmy also lost his mom, Mary Loraine “Peets” Buffett. She was 82. From the sounds of it, she may be somewhat responsible for her son’s wanderlust. “My mother taught me to dream and expand my horizons beyond family traditions and my childhood surroundings,” Jimmy wrote in his memoir. He also recalled attending Mardi Gras with his mother as a child and being frightened by a float called “Folly Chasing Death.” While reflecting back on that moment decades later, Jimmy Buffett shared the lesson he learned from it: “Death will get you in the end, but if you are smart and have a sense of humor, you can thumb your nose at it for a while.”