Malibu record executive dies at 59

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Jheryl Busby, who served as president and chief executive of Motown Records from 1988 to 1995, died on November 4. He was 59.

The man who was credited for reviving the record label was found dead in a hot tub at his Malibu home. Although an official cause of death was not available, Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Ed Winter said it could be a possible accident or natural causes. Busby had battled diabetes for several years.

Meril May, a friend of five years, said he was shocked to hear the news of Busby’s death and saddened by the loss.

“I feel like the planet has lost an amazing spirit who was genuine, caring and loving,” May said. “He always made a point of giving back to the community and tried to empower people.”

May described Busby as being “relentless in his enthusiastic passion for family, friends and his life in music.” May said this enthusiasm is even more incredible when one considers Busby’s battle with diabetes.

“All of us only have 24 hours in the day,” May said. “Many weeks included several days of dialysis, and subsequent rest and recovery from the exhausting process. But even having this physical, mental and time drain of what could exceed 18 hours a week, he never complained. His enthusiasm never was diminished. He worked later, contributed more, shared his time and enthusiastic spirit, and immersed himself in one of his many passions.”

A Los Angeles native, Busby got his start at Stax Records in the early 1970s. He became a rising star in the promotional and artist development departments and went on to other entertainment powerhouses like A&M Records as well as CBS, Casablanca and Atlantic. In a 1991 interview with the Washington Post, he said that his job was “putting up the posters and creating a buzz on records. I thought it was such a great job.”

Busby switched to MCA Records and went on to become the president of the company’s black music division in 1984. He became known for signing first-rate performers like Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle. He also discovered new talent like Bobby Brown and Jody Watley.

Four years later, Busby was on to Motown, which he described as “the most important record label in America in terms of black music.” His impressive roster of stars included Diana Ross, Boyz II Men and Queen Latifah.

He left the company in 1995, but continued to have an active role in the music industry.

May said Busby will be missed. “I am very sad we have lost him. The great thing about knowing someone like this is you get to share in his zest for life and positive outlook.”

The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. this week on Thursday at Faithful Central Bible Church, located at 333 Florence Ave. in Inglewood. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to: Jheryl Busby Foundation, c/o New Beginnings, 6767 Regal Park Dr. Fontana CA 92336.

A list of survivors was not immediately made available.