Lisa Lee, a respected music journalist who rose to senior vice president of creative and content at the Academy of Country Music, died on Saturday (Aug. 21) after a battle with brain cancer. She was 52.
Born Alicia Faye Young, the Cabot, Arkansas native began her professional career as a journalist, reporting for the Cabot Star-Herald newspaper soon after college. She transitioned to broadcast journalism, working at KTAL-TV in the Shreveport, Louisiana area, and later at Jim Owens and Associates in Nashville.
In 2000, she joined CMT as a news correspondent and producer. As part of MTV Networks group, Lee reported on events in the United States, but also in England, Japan, Canada and Switzerland. She also wrote and produced the Prism Award-winning special “Addicted to Addiction,” in addition to the news specials “Controversy: Tammy Wynette” and “Sex in Videos: Where’s the Line.”
In 2004, Lee relocated to Los Angeles, working as a correspondent and West Coast News Bureau Chief for CMT Insider. In 2007, Lee joined the Academy of Country Music to help the organization establish and grow an in-house creative and video production department. She served as the ACM’s lead staff producer, overseeing all video production as well as the design, creation and editing of ACM logos, digital and printed materials including ACM Tempo magazine, the ACM Awards program book, and both the ACM and ACM Lifting Lives websites. She added producer duties for the Academy of Country Music Honors, an awards event honoring special awards honorees and off-camera winners, which is held each year at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
This year’s event is slated to take place this Wednesday, Aug. 25.
“The Academy has lost a huge part of its heart and soul with the passing of Lisa Lee,” said ACM CEO Damon Whiteside. “She was a champion for country music and fiercely dedicated to the Academy’s mission for her over 15 years of service to the ACM. She is irreplaceable, but her heart and spirit will live on throughout our industry. ACM Honors was her favorite event, and I know she will be singing along and smiling down on us from above on Wednesday night.”
Lee also served as a liaison with CBS television’s creative departments during the annual ACM Awards.
“Lisa was smart, and funny, and a beautiful human being,” said Jack Sussman, executive vp, specials, music + live events at CBS Entertainment. “She was a treasure trove in terms of the history and the importance of country music, and she cared about those traditions and the artists deeply. I don’t know what the Academy is going to do without her. She had a way about her that was smooth, but nurturing. When you do live tv, anything can happen (and usually does); she was a calming influence who could get things done and make people in that setting feel grounded and settled. Whatever was happening, she would make it okay. Lisa could talk to anyone.”
In 2014, Lee penned the book This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards.
Luke Bryan and Keith Urban are among the artists already paying tribute to the late ACM exec, with Bryan calling her “a light inside our industry” and Urban noting she was “one of the most passionate and caring people I’ve ever met.”
Lee was a member of the Writers Guild of America and an alum of Leadership Music. Lee is survived by her parents, Charlie and Faye Young; her husband Doug Lee; daughter Grayson and son Jackson, among others. She was preceded in death by her grandparents and brothers, Jason Young and Dennis Young.
A visitation will be held this Friday in Cabot, Arkansas, with a memorial service to follow on Saturday. A celebration of life is slated to be held later in Nashville. A memorial fund for Lee has been set up at acmcountry.com.