Remembering Ron Bushy: Iron Butterfly Drummer Died at 79

Iron Butterfly

There are rock legends and then there are those individuals that are truly the stuff of legend, the ones who are still performing show after show in the hearts of fans, long after they are no longer physically with us. There is little doubt that Ron Bushy, the ever-present drummer for Iron Butterfly, falls into the latter category. Not only was he one of the most prolific drummers of the last four decades, he was also one of the most dependable individuals in the entire music industry in any metal band. Unfortunately, he passed away on the 29th of August due to complications from cancer. In order to honor his memory, one must first understand his life.

Music Was Not His Goal

It might surprise you to know that music was not something that Bushy had on his radar while he was growing up. In fact, he went to college with the intention of becoming a marine biologist. As such, he studied things like oceanography and psychology while he was in college. Like most college students, he needed to make a little extra money and he had what he said was a passing interest in music at that time. He was curious about playing the drums, so he took one of his favorite records, Green Onions, and rented a drum set. In no time, he taught himself how to play the drums and read music. From that point on, he started looking for local gigs that he could get as a means of making extra money. Eventually, he met the other people who would eventually become members of Iron Butterfly, along with other iconic musical artists that were at the height of their popularity during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

He and the rest of the guys that eventually formed Iron Butterfly got on well, forming the group and making a name for themselves in music. As far as Bushy himself was concerned, it was something that he never anticipated, something he never really even wanted. Nevertheless, when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at it. He commented several times over the years that he enjoyed playing, so he saw no reason not to accept the opportunities that were putting themselves in front of him. By the same token, he said that he initially intended to return to college for his degree in Marine Biology, believing that the music gigs would eventually fizzle out. As it turns out, that never happened and he remained with the band until the early 2000s when he retired because of declining health.

His Legacy Lives On

All together, Iron Butterfly did only four albums, the last one coming in 1975. Despite that fact, they continued touring for decades after that. Through it all, Ron Bushy was the only one that was consistently present. Other members of the group had a tendency to come and go. That is a good legacy to have in and of itself, but it is perhaps his good-natured personality, coupled with his work ethic that made him such a permanent fixture in the band. People wanted to be around him. He also had the talent to get the job done, as previously mentioned. That was never more evident then when he did an epic drum solo for the band’s breakthrough song, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, that lasted a whopping 17 minutes. Most drummers wouldn’t be able to keep up with a song that long to begin with, not to mention one with a demanding solo like the one that Bushy performed. Nevertheless, he performed that solo on a number of occasions and did it with a smile on his face each and every time.

Declining Health

As previously discussed, Bushy stopped going on live tours with the rock band in the early 2000s because of declining health. At the time, he was experiencing a number of health concerns. Nevertheless, there would be special shows where he would make an appearance, sometimes performing for the entire show and sometimes only performing a song or two. It wasn’t something he did on a regular basis, but it was something that he did often enough to keep his skills sharp. It was also something that he did simply for the enjoyment of doing so. He loved playing music. In fact, the only thing he loved more was interacting with the fans. As a result, he genuinely regretted that he had to mostly retire from live performances and relished those few opportunities where he got to play from time to time.

Cancer Diagnosis

Unfortunately, his health continued to decline over the years, and most recently he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He had been sick for some time, fighting the disease as best he could for a number of years. Many people who knew him best commented that he was a genuine fighter, someone who would not give up when the going got tough. Most of his close friends and family members believed it was that attitude that allowed him to survive for as long as he did. Even after his diagnosis, he would still periodically play. Unfortunately, the cancer proved to be too much for his body and he began to grow weaker and weaker over the course of the last few weeks. Eventually, he was admitted to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California where he later died. The good news is that his wife and many other loved ones were by his side when he passed away. By all accounts, he went peacefully. That in and of itself is enough to bring the people who knew him best a certain amount of peace for themselves, knowing that he wasn’t in a great deal of pain or struggling in his last few moments. Upon his death, his wife notified certain members of the band almost immediately and they put an announcement on their Facebook page in his honor. Upon his death, the overwhelming majority of the original members of Iron Butterfly are now deceased, with only one of the four original members still living.

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