Chicago musician, entrepreneur, father, husband and founder of JoyArtMusic Morris “Butch” Stewart passed away last week after a bout with cancer. He was 64.
Born in Evanston, IL, Stewart’s professional career began when he joined Ramsey Lewis as a backing vocalist in 1975. Other artists working with Lewis at the time included Brenda Mitchell, who would later become Stewart’s his wife.
That same year, Stewart also began a fruitful relationship with the multi-platinum, multi-genre band Earth Wind & Fire, which was formed in Chicago in 1970.
In addition to performing with the group on several dates of its 1975 tour, he wrote the song “King of Groove,” which appeared on the 1990 album, “Heritage.”
In 1978, Stewart launched JoyArtMusic, a production company that would grow into one of the most innovative and significant music houses in the country. It was especially celebrated for its TV and radio theme song creation.
The Oprah Winfrey Show and the Tom Joyner Morning Show are just a few of the programs that began every episode with music created by JoyArt.
Joyner tweeted Monday that he was “Remembering Butch Stewart all morning long. I lost my good friend.”
“I can’t even begin to talk about how much I have learned from Butch Stewart over the 35 years I’ve known and worked for and with him,” says singer, voiceover artist and educator Jeff Morrow.
“But here are a few major things: how to deal with singers and clients on session, how to arrange and produce vocals ON THE SPOT and how to be firm but still cordial when working with talent on live or in-studio performances,” he continues.
“Thank You For being a great friend and mentor!”
Over the years, Stewart wrote, produced and recorded numerous songs and artists for a label that he founded, Copia Records.
He also operated the Art of Making Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Morris and his wife Brenda dedicated to increasing funds for musical education in schools.
His legacy and contributions to Chicago’s music industry are boundless.
A gofundme campaign has been initiated by Stewart’s many friends to help “ease the burden of (his) family’s loss.”