KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Early Saturday morning, Michael Strickland's phone exploded and he received the devastating news.
His friend, whom he had known for 38 years, had passed away. People close to him knew that Jimmy Buffett was terminal, Strickland said, but they didn't expect it to happen so soon.
Strickland is the founder of Bandit LITES, a company from Knoxville that did lighting and decorations for him.
"He was a lifestyle. He was Margaritaville," Strickland said. "I think what most people would be surprised about Jimmy is, he was very much a recluse. Not in the sense that he didn't like people, he loved people. But he preferred being with one or two people on the beach."
Buffett's life was far from only two or three people. His concerts usually sold out, Strickland said, and while he liked to have a private life he also liked people.
WBIR's archives from an interview in 1997 show Buffett sharing about doing what he loves.
"We had this offer to come in Knoxville, and so it's a great place to, kind of, it's sort of a traditional place. So we started, we rehearsed it for a major tour a couple of years ago, so it's great to be back. I'm glad everybody's excited, it sounds. I'm excited to play. We got a new album, we're gonna play some songs" Buffett told WBIR. "I'm getting to do things I dreamed about as a kid, you know — make movies, do records, do all that stuff. Not have a real job. So it's great, you know. I'm the person that, I'm not ready to stop but, you know, and I've learned, I guess, your experience comes with age and I've sort of made it through the danger loop and other side having a good time."
When he came to town, headlines read "Buffett banishes winter for a night," or "When it comes to Buffett Knoxville is firmly a Parrothead kinda town."
Now his work is a gift that will stay with the world and it'll keep giving forever.
"Jimmy Buffett was bigger than bigger-than-life. I mean, he created, as we know, a lifestyle. He gave so many people so much joy," Strickland said. "Let's remember the spirit of living life to its fullest, which is exactly what Jimmy did."