Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Busbee, GRAMMY-Nominated Hit-Maker, Dies At 43
Yesterday, Sept. 29, Warner Chappell broke the sad news, via a heartfelt Instagram post, that GRAMMY-nominated songwriter/producer busbee had passed away at age 43. His label, Altadena, was housed under Warner Records and he had a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music. Variety reports that, according to a friend of his, busbee was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, earlier this year and was receiving treatment for it.
He spent the last two decades working with a long list of popular country and pop artists in Los Angeles and Nashville, helping pen and produce infectious hits for Maren Morris, Shakira, Adam Lambert, Lady Antebellum and many more. Clearly beloved by everyone he worked with, many have shared tributes on social media.
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Our hearts are broken by the loss of our beautiful friend busbee. He was an extraordinary human being whose generosity, spirituality and humor inspired everyone around him. An amazingly gifted songwriter, he used his talent, his music, and his love to break down boundaries and bring people together. He left us far too soon. Our deepest condolences go to his wonderful family and all his many friends. We love you. - Guy, Carianne, Ben, Ryan, Katy and the Warner Chappell family Today we lost busbee, a dear friend, business partner with his company Altadena, and one of the best and brightest creative minds in music. busbee’s kindness and legacy will never be forgotten and our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time. With love & respect, Aaron, Tom and his Warner Records family
"The Recording Academy is heartbroken over the passing of one of our own—GRAMMY-nominated songwriter and producer, busbee," Deborah Dugan, President/CEO of the Recording Academy said. She continued:
"He was an integral member of our music community, serving as a Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter Governor and Co-Chair of the Chapter's Advocacy Committee, where he helped advance the rights of artists, songwriters, and studio professionals. busbee was a creative spirit who was unconditionally committed to his craft. This is a devastating loss for the entire music community, and our hearts are with his family, friends, and all of his many musical collaborators."
Born Michael James Ryan, busbee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his love of music blossomed from a young age through church and both Christian and jazz radio. His natural talents in music began with piano lessons at age seven and trombone in high school. He received a college scholarship to continue his studies of jazz trombone on the East Coast, later returning home and accepting a job as a music pastor at a local church.
"There's so much music at church. You can feel when a song feels like it's inspired," busbee told Ross Golan on the May 6 episode of his podcast "And the Writer Is…," as quoted by Variety. In 2000, busbee relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a deeply inspiring career in the music industry, beginning his songwriting career with notable country and pop artists.
In 2009, he saw his first Top 40 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 as a writer on Rascal Flatts' "Summer Nights." As reported by Billboard, his work earned him (and his collaborators, of course) a total of 22 charting songs to date on the Hot 100 alone. Several of his big songs are with GRAMMY-winning country queen Morris, as he worked as a producer and co-writer on both her debut LP, Hero, and her 2019 follow up, Girl. For "My Church," her hit debut single, the pair both earned nominations for Best Country Song at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. Morris also earned a Best New Artist nomination that year, and took home a win for Best Country Solo Performance for "My Church."
She shared a touching message and picture on social media yesterday, writing, "This just doesn't seem fair. I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend." Today, she shared another tribute on Twitter, a video from the studio of him working on "My Church."
This just doesn’t seem fair. I will always love you and the songs and albums I was lucky to make with you, Busbee. Rest well, my sweet friend. pic.twitter.com/9DKsU5G77a
— MAREN MORRIS (@MarenMorris) September 30, 2019
Dedicated to the craft of songwriting, he was a true collaborator as well as a mentor. During a songwriting panel hosted by the Recording Academy L.A. Chapter this spring, he discussed his journey that led him to becoming a hit-maker, emphasizing the important roles of faith, hard work and perseverance.
"Nobody else is going to get what's yours," busbee told the group of budding songwriters and artists. "You never know who's going to make the decision that changes the course of your life."
Keep scrolling to get a small taste of the many lives he touched, with moving tributes from more of his collaborators and friends; Shakira, Lady Antebellum, Golan, Lambert, Blake Shelton and Carly Pearce.
Today an uncanny talent and unique soul has departed.
Busbee you left us so early, but your music and your passion will be among us and forever cherished.
My condolences to his family and the music community in Nashville. pic.twitter.com/g9ya0eeNav
— Shakira (@shakira) September 30, 2019
Over a decade of life and music together. We shared some of our favorite memories with you. You were more than a co-writer, producer, or friend. You were family. We love you. pic.twitter.com/3nDgQimGKp
— Lady Antebellum (@ladyantebellum) September 30, 2019
I love you, Busbee. We texted every day since the diagnosis. I didn’t understand why you didn’t respond today. I’m so sad. Thank you for being there for me and Jac when we were hurting. I tried to be there for you but no one’s heart is bigger than yours. Love you, brother.
— Ross Golan (@rossgolan) September 30, 2019
Shocked and saddened by the news today that we have lost Busbee. I am so grateful I was able to have collaborated with him. He was brilliant and warm, with palpable joy for his craft. RIP Sir.
— ADAM LAMBERT (@adamlambert) September 30, 2019
Thinking about this dude today... Gonna miss you Busbee. pic.twitter.com/TIC3zw0gGr
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) September 30, 2019
— Carly Pearce (@carlypearce) September 30, 2019