Gone, but not forgotten. The late Jimmy Buffett was honored with a star-studded tribute at the 2023 CMA Awards on Wednesday.

Country music icons Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, the Zac Brown Band and Mac McAnally — a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band — joined forces for a moving performance on stage at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

The special tribute performance included a medley of some of Buffett’s most beloved hits, including an emotional and poignant cover of “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” as well as an enthusiastic and memorable performance of “Margaritaville.”

The “Margaritaville” singer died at the age of 76 on Sept. 1 from Merkel cell carcinoma — a skin cancer. He is survived by his wife, Jane, his daughters, Savannah and Sarah, and son, Cameron.

News of his death rocked the country community and the nation at large, with remembrances pouring in across social media. 

President Joe Biden hailed Buffett as a “poet of paradise” in a touching tribute posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“A poet of paradise, Jimmy Buffett was an American music icon who inspired generations to step back and find the joy in life and in one another,” the president’s verified account tweeted. “We had the honor to meet and get to know Jimmy over the years, and he was in life as he was performing on stage — full of goodwill and joy, using his gift to bring people together. Jill and I send our love to his wife of 46 years, Jane; to their children, Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron; to their grandchildren; and to the millions of fans who will continue to love him even as his ship now sails for new shores.”

John Prieto/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Blake Shelton raised a glass and remembered Buffett as “an incredible talent and man.”

“Heart broken this morning hearing of Jimmy Buffett’s passing. What an incredible talent and man,” Shelton tweeted. “His songs will live on forever. I’ll bet most of y’all don’t know that he wrote the theme song for @BarmageddonUSA for me about 2 years ago. Raising a glass today to the Son of a son of a Sailer.”

At the time, Chesney shared a stripped-down video of himself on a beach with an acoustic guitar singing Buffett’s 1974 song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

“So goodbye Jimmy. Thanks for your friendship and the songs I will carry in my heart forever,” he wrote. “Sail On Sailor.”

Wednesday’s 2023 CMA Awards are hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, airing live on ABC from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. In another tribute performance during the show, Jelly Roll and K. Michelle are honoring Wynonna Judd and the late Naomi Judd with a cover of The Judds’ hit, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” 

Additional performers on tap for this year’s show include host Bryan, Little Big Town, Megan Moroney, Old Dominion, Carly Pearce, Chris Stapleton, Tanya Tucker, Lainey Wilson, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Jordan Davis, Hardy, Cody Johnson, Post Malone, Ashley McBride, Morgan Wallen and The War and Treaty. 

See the latest on the 2023 CMA Awards at the links below, and check here for the full list of the night’s big winners.




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