The Nashville songwriting community is grieving the loss of one of their own. Hit songwriter Harley Allen, who penned dozens of songs for some of country music's biggest stars, passed away yesterday (March 30) after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 55.

Harley wrote one of John Michael Montgomery's biggest hits, 'The Little Girl,' that stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. Other Top 40 songs he penned include 'My Last Name,' by Dierks Bentley, 'Between the Devil and Me' and 'Everything I Love' by Alan Jackson, 'Awful, Beautiful Life' by Darryl Worley, 'Tough Little Boys' by Gary Allan and 'The Baby' by Blake Shelton. He also had cuts by George Jones, Tracy Byrd, Ricky Skaggs, John Conlee, Sammy Kershaw, Joe Nichols, Alison Krauss & Union Station and Kathy Mattea.

"I always liked seeing his name on a song. It was always something I wished I'd written," Alan Jackson said in a statement (quote via Nashville's Tennessean newspaper). Ricky Skaggs echoed the sentiment. "He was one of the most talented guys in this town," he states. "Such a great singer and player, and as a songwriter the guy was brilliant. I loved him."

Harley is survived by his wife, Debbie (pictured with him above), daughters Katie and Maggie and son Aaron.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Chet Atkins Music Education Fund, c/o the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.