Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings Songwriter Patsy Bruce Dead at 81
Patsy Bruce — one-half of the songwriting team behind "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys — has died. Bruce wrote the song with her husband Ed Bruce, who recorded his own version before Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings made it famous.
The couple divorced in 1987, and Ed Bruce died in December of 2020. Patsy Bruce did much more than just write one of country music's most famous songs. In sharing news of her May 16 death, Nashville's Tennessean newspaper notes her time as the president of Nashville Songwriters Association International into the early 1980s, and her job as a casting director for television shows including Maverick and the movie Urban Cowboy.
"Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" was an autobiographical song for the then-struggling singer-songwriter Ed Bruce, but his wife suggested the pivotal theme change to "cowboys" that truly turned the lyric into something much bigger. It didn't become a classic after Bruce's Top 20 recording in 1975. Only when Jennings tapped Nelson for the duet did it become a life-changer for the couple. Later they'd write a song called "Texas (When I Die)," which became a Top 5 hit for Tanya Tucker.
Patsy Bruce led several endeavors in and out of the music business. Most notably, she was part of the state of Tennessee's parole board beginning in 2004. The 81-year-old leaves behind partner Jim Trout, two daughters and a son named Trey Bruce who's written hits for Randy Travis, Diamond Rio and more. He also contributed a song to Carrie Underwood's debut album, Some Hearts.