A margarita cocktail: the inspiration for "Margaritaville"

"Margaritaville" is a 1977 song by American popular music singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett from the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. This song was written about a drink Buffett discovered at Lung's Cocina del Sur restaurant on Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas, and the first huge surge of tourists who descended on Key West, Florida around that time. He wrote most of the song that night at a friend's house in Austin, and finished it while spending time in Key West. In the United States "Margaritaville" reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and went to number one on the Easy Listening chart, additionally peaking at #13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Billboard ranked it number 14 on its 1977 Pop Singles year-end chart. It remains Buffett's highest charting solo single.

Named for the cocktail margarita, with lyrics reflecting a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical climate, "Margaritaville" has come to define Buffett's music and career. The relative importance of the song to Buffett's career is referred to obliquely in a parenthetical plural in the title of a Buffett greatest hits compilation album, Songs You Know By Heart: Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hit(s). The name has been used in the title of additional Buffett compilation albums such as Meet Me In Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection and is additionally the name of several commercial products licenced by Buffett (see below). Popular culture references, throughout the years and remakes attest to the song's continuing popularity. The song was mentioned in Blake Shelton's 2004 single "Some Beach".

"Margaritaville" has been inducted into the 2016 Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historic significance.


The song's title refers to the drunken haze in which the narrator has existed while spending an entire season at a beach resort community, but he couldn't find the salt for his margarita. The three verses describe his day-to-day activities. In the first verse, he passes his time playing guitar on his front porch and watching tourists sunbathe, all the while eating sponge cake and waiting for a pot of shrimp to boil. In the second verse, he has nothing to show for his time except a tattoo of a woman that he can't remember having done. In the third and final verse, he blew out his flip-flop, stepped on a pop-top, cuts his heel, and cruises on back home to ease his pain with a fresh batch of margaritas. When the song was used throughout live performances, it was changed to "I broke my leg twice, i had to limp on back home".

The three choruses reveal that the narrator is drowning his sorrows over a failed romance, and his friends are telling him that his former girlfriend is at fault. The last line of each shows his shifting attitude toward the situation: "it's nobody's fault," then "hell, it can be my fault," and finally "it's my own damn fault."

Buffett revealed throughout the recording of an episode of CMT's Crossroads with the Zac Brown Band that "Margaritaville" was actually supposed to be recorded by Elvis Presley, but Elvis Presley died at the age of 42, the same year that the song was released. Buffett went to the studio, and recorded it.

Lost verse

There is a "lost verse" to this song, as described by Buffett, which he often adds when performing in concert, which was reputedly edited out before recording the song in order to make the song more radio-friendly. The song was shortened even further for the single edit.

Old men in tank tops,
Cruisin' the gift shops,
Checkin' out chiquitas, down by the shore
They dream about weight loss,
Wish they can be their own boss
Those three-day vacations can be (or "become") such a bore

Lyric confusion

There is a few confusion as to whether Buffett sings "Wasted away" or "Wastin’ away" in the refrain of the song. The original unedited lyrics, that appear on the record sleeve to the Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes LP, read "Waistin'" [sic]. Also, most guitar tablature and sheet music read "Wastin'." Buffett has never made a statement on the issue. Notwithstanding he has additionally been known to use "wasted" in a few performances, as well as in the video game re-recording for Rock Band.

Chart performance

Chart (1977)Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 1008
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles13
Canadian RPM Top Singles4
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks8
New Zealand Singles Chart33

Other versions

Single edit

A single edit was released to radio stations in 1977, timing at 3:20. The single edit lacks another minute off of that, which makes the song more airplay on radio stations:

  • The interlude between the second refrain and the third and final verse was lacked for radio airplay.
  • The song structure is changed from riff-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-interlude-verse-chorus-refrain-riff to riff-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-riff, in which the section throughout the third and final refrain and final refrain was lacked for radio airplay.
  • The track itself was sped up at half-step. The original recording of the key of D would be E-flat.

Cover versions

American country singer Alan Jackson covered the song on his 1999 Under the Influence album. The cover featured Buffett singing along on the third and final verse; it additionally peaked at #63 after receiving play as an album cut. Professional wrestlers Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock performed the song together on the November 12, 2001 episode of RAW. Jimmy Buffett additionally re-recorded this song as well as "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Volcano" specifically for Rock Band as downloadable content.


In 2006, Kenan Thompson did a parody of the song throughout the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live, where he plays a soldier who found out he was going to the U.S.-Mexico border, rather than Baghdad. When Amy Poehler asks him what his reaction was when he discovered he was going to the border, in the next shot, he has a Corona banner above him, a sombrero on his head. He is swaying a Corona beer bottle and singing, "Wasting away again not in Iraq." This was likely a parody on Mortaritaville, which was recorded around 2 years prior. In the show Napoleon Dynamite, Kip mentions that the animatronics at Goof Nutz Pizza sing the song "Pizzaritaville." The song was featured on an episode of the Fox TV series The Simpsons in the Season 11 episode Bart to the Future, where the song was parodied as "Daquiritaville".

In 1991, Comedian Mark Eddie, along with Carlo Volhl wrote a parody song titled, "Marijuanaville". The song appeared on the album Rock & Roll Comedy Cuts Part I.

A parody version has aired on the John Boy & Billy Big Show titled "Martinsville", referencing Martinsville Speedway.


As Buffett's signature song, "Margaritaville" has been used in a number of commercial ventures and product licencing tie-ins including:

  • Radio Margaritaville, a radio station that broadcasts on the Internet and Sirius XM Radio
  • Tales from Margaritaville, a collection of short storeys by Buffett
  • Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, a casual dining restaurant chain, tourist destination and chain of stores (shops) selling Buffett-themed franchise merchandise in Jamaica, Mexico and the U.S. In 1985, Buffett opened a "Margaritaville" restaurant in Key West, though his first was in Orange Beach, Alabama.
  • Margaritaville margarita mix (manufactured by Mott's)
  • Margaritaville tequila
  • Margaritaville bottled malt beverages
  • Margaritaville branded Landshark Lager
  • Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker
  • Margaritaville chips & salsa
  • Margaritaville chicken wings
  • Margaritaville frozen seafood
  • Margaritaville Soles of the Tropics footwear
  • Margaritaville men's & women's apparel
  • Margaritaville outdoor & beach furniture
  • Margaritaville key-lime pie filling mix