The music community lost a beloved and influential figure with the news of songwriter and producer Busbee's death on Sunday (Sept. 29). The revered creator — birth name Michael James Ryan — wrote and produced songs for several of country music's best, including Keith Urban, Maren Morris, Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, though his talents spread far beyond Nashville.
Busbee was responsible for hits for a range of artists, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Christina Aguilera. The songwriter/producer/talent was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, a few months prior to his death and is said to have been seeking treatment when he died at the age of 43. Many of the stars who worked with him remembered him publicly via social media, with Morris, Carly Pearce and Blake Shelton among those to share heartfelt memories of a man they called a friend.
Busbee had a hand in several monumental moments in artists' careers, including one of Brooks' first songs after retirement, Pearce's first No. 1 hit and Morris' Grammy-nominated debut album, Hero. Here are 10 of Busbee's best songs.
"Summer Nights"Rascal Flatts
Busbee scored his first hit in the country format with Rascal Flatts' charming second single from their chart-topping sixth album, Unstoppable. It was officially his first foray into the genre, setting the stage for years of success in Nashville.
"Storm Warning"Hunter Hayes
Hunter Hayes' debut single was also an early hit for this producer. The song is featured on Hayes' 2011 debut self-titled album and has since become one of his signature numbers. It's among Busbee's first hits in the country market and helped catapult Hayes into stardom.
"Every Little Thing" Carly Pearce
This emotional, piano-driven ballad launched Pearce from a newcomer to an established star when it was released in 2017. Penned after the heartbreaking end of a relationship, the song became Pearce's first No. 1 single after years of trying to break into the genre. "You gave my music a place in this world," she shares in a reflective post about Busbee's passing. "I’ll cherish the two albums, songs, talks, laughs & memories we shared over the years."
"People Loving People" Garth Brooks
This moving song about people coming together was one of the first songs Brooks released after coming out of retirement in 2014. It's also the first single from his 2014 album Man Against the Machine. The lyrics promote unity, encouraging the idea that the love is what conquers all. It became Brooks' first Top 20 song since his 2007 duet with Huey Lewis, "Workin' for a Livin.'"
"Dark Side" Kelly Clarkson
Busbee did just as much for pop superstars as he did for country. Just ask Clarkson, who cut his catchy, but vulnerable track "Dark Side" for her platinum-certified 2011 album Stronger. The song charted in multiple countries, hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart.
"Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken" Pink
Busbee contributed to Pink's Beautiful Trauma album with the powerful "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken." The cinematic piano ballad is about freedom and liberation, with Clarkson belting: "The stones you throw can make me bleed / But I won't stop until we're free / Wild hearts can't be broken." The album was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
"Road Less Traveled" Lauren Alaina
Busbee can take credit for helping to ignite both Carly Pearce and Lauren Alaina's careers. He was a producer on this empowering hit, which became Alaina's first-ever No. 1 song in 2017. He also produced the album of the same name, and it debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in 2017.
"You Look Good" Lady Antebellum
When Lady Antebellum dropped "You Look Good" on country radio in 2017, there wasn't anything that sounded like it. That's thanks in part to co-writer Busbee, who made the song's horn section shine with his production efforts. He also co-wrote six songs and produced the trio's Heart Break album which went on to be nominated for Best Country Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards and Album of the Year at the 2017 CMA Awards and ACM Awards.
"The Fighter" Keith Urban ft. Carrie Underwood
This Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood duet can be counted as one of Busbee's most experimental efforts. Blending pop elements of clap and drum beats with a message of supporting someone at all costs, Busbee pushed country music out of its comfort zone with this undeniable hit. The song charted across the globe, from Australia to Belgium, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2017.
While Busbee had several hits to his name before teaming up with Maren Morris, it was their collaboration on her breakthrough single and concurrent 2016 debut album Hero that truly showed what he's capable of. The song blends blues and soul with her modern country swag. "My Church" was named Best Country Solo Performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards, with the project as a whole scoring a nomination for Best Country Album. It's still Morris' career-defining hit — the pair's co-writing and co-production efforts solidified Morris as a superstar.