Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally & Zac Brown Band Salute The Late Jimmy Buffett At CMA Awards

This was a 2023 CMA Awards moment to remember


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

November 8, 2023


11:06 pm

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Jimmy Buffett Tribute; Photo Courtesy of CMA

It’s been just over nine weeks since Jimmy Buffett tragically passed away at the age of 76. The country music community came together during the 2023 CMA Awards to honor the late artist who spent over five decades of his life entertaining with a multi-song tribute by Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally and Zac Brown Band.

The incredibly moving performance opened with 11-time CMA Award winner Chesney and 10-time CMA Award winner and longtime The Coral Reefer Band member Mac McAnally. The pair were seated on stools plucking acoustic guitars as photos of the late Jimmy Buffett flashed on the screen behind them. Chesney appeared to be holding back tears as they delivered “A Pirate Looks At Forty,” a song written and performed by Buffett that’s featured on his 1974 album A-1-A.

“Thank you, Jimmy,” Chesney hollered into the mic before letting 2023 Vocal Group of the Year nominee Zac Brown Band and 16-time CMA Award winner Alan Jackson continue the heartfelt moment. 

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The Artists Donned Their Beachy Best

This next set of artists came together wearing their beachy best with tropical shirts and bare feet to honor the beloved singer-songwriter, performer, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and the Mayor of Margaritaville’s beloved seaside style. Together, they sang “Adios, My Friend” and the 1977 signature hit, “Margaritaville,” as a final salute to their late friend and fellow artist. 

After singing along to the string of breezy lyrics, the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation for the performance that was perfectly suited for the iconic singer/songwriter and honored his legacy in the best way. 

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Jimmy Buffett Passed Away “Peacefully” On September 1

Jimmy Buffett died of a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. Buffett died on September 1 after a four-year battle with the disease.

 “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” a statement posted to his official social media accounts read. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”

Jimmy Buffett Tribute; Photo Courtesy of CMA
Jimmy Buffett Tribute; Photo Courtesy of CMA

Each of tonight’s performers shared a special relationship with Buffett, from songwriting sessions to on-stage performances and collaborative hits that will continue to live on within music lovers everywhere. 

Alan Jackson previously teamed up with Buffett on the iconic hit, “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere.” The track arrived in the summer of 2003 and went on to win the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year in 2003. It was also named the No.3 country song of the decade by Billboard.

Zac Brown Band worked with Jimmy Buffett on numerous occasions, including the song “Knee Deep” in 2011. They later shared the stage for CMT Crossroads in 2020, and in 2022, they joined forces for a reimagined version of ZBB’s chart-topping hit, “Same Boat.” 

The Coral Reefer Band Will Live On

Mac McAnally is a longtime member of Buffett’s band, The Coral Reefer Band, and previously co-wrote several tracks with the superstar. 

At Buffett’s request, The Coral Reefer Band will continue on. During a recent interview with Billboard, Mac McAnally revealed that he plans to “keep the party going.”

“The Coral Reefer Band is second family to all of us,” McAnally shared. “We are a family and Jimmy wants us to continue and we want to continue. There’s ongoing discussions about the best way to do that, the most practical way to do that and how to do it in a way that is worthy of the legacy that we’re part of.”

Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally; Photo Courtesy of CMA
Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally; Photo Courtesy of CMA

Additionally, McAnally co-produced several of Jimmy Buffett’s albums, including his posthumous new album, Equal Strain On All Parts, which arrived on November 3 via Mailboat Records and distributed by Sun Records. 

The project was previewed with three new songs: “Like My Dog,” “My Gummie Just Kicked In,” and “Bubbles Up.” This bundle of these tracks was released to fans on Friday (Sept. 8) to keep his memory alive.

Equal Strain On All Parts will “keep the party going” just as Buffett requested. The title of the 14-track project was inspired by Buffett’s grandfather’s description of a good nap. 

The record, co-produced by longtime Coral Reefers, Michael Utley and Mac McAnally, features well-known friends, including Paul McCartney, Emmylou Harris, Lennie Gallant, Angelique Kidjo, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA
Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA

57th CMA Awards

Co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, the 57th Annual CMA Awards aired live on Wednesday, November 8 on ABC (8:00-11:00 PM/EST). The star-studded show featured performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Chris Stapleton, Jordan Davis, Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, The War And Treaty, Lainey Wilson, and more. 

Always known for epic collaborations, the 2023 CMA Awards also featured a Jimmy Buffett tribute from Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally, and Zac Brown Band, a not-to-be-missed performance of country classics from Post Malone, Morgan Wallen, and HARDY, a performance honoring The Judds from Jelly Roll and K. Michelle, plus special duets from Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton, Old Dominion and Megan Moroney, and Little Big Town with Tanya Tucker.  

Paula Abdul, Bill Anderson, Nate Bargatze, Kevin Cahoon, Jordan Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Sara Evans, Brian Kelley, Lady A, Martina McBride, Parker McCollum, Craig Morgan, Darius Rucker, Corey Seager, Gerry Turner, Keith Urban, Hailey Whitters and Chris Young appeared to present during “Country Music’s Biggest Night.” 

Those who are unable to watch the show in real-time can watch the CMA Awards the following day on Hulu. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.