Music collaborators, friends and fans took to social media on Christmas Day to pay tribute to singer-songwriter Allee Willis, who wrote or co-wrote hits such as Earth, Wind and Fire, the party anthem “September”, “The Neutron Dance” of the Pointer Sisters and the Emmy-nominated theme for the long-running television series “Friends,” a.k.a. “I’m Be There for You,” after news emerged that she had died on Christmas Eve at the age of 72.
The cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to his publicist.
“Allee Willis was a one-of-a-kind creative genius,” he tweeted Wednesday. “His love, spirit and artistic ability are forever intertwined in the fabric and legacy of Earth, Wind and Fire. We’re going to miss him a lot. “
The band’s lead singer, Philip Bailey, tweeted separately: “It would be as if Allee Willis were flying at a time of the holiest days. We’re going to miss you, my friend until we meet again. Love and Light.”
Willis was inducted last year into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for her decades of work creating songs that stretched from pop to rock, R&B to the soul. He were recorded by a host of artists including Ray Charles, Sister Sledge Bonnie Raitt, Bryan Adams and Pet Shop Boys.
A Renaissance woman, Willis also delved into visual art as a painter, wrote comedies, hosted a renowned collection of kitsch memorabilia at her home in Valley Village in the San Fernando Valley and recent years had mounted a production theatrical for a woman called “Allee Willis ‘Love’ N Latkes Chanukah Christmas Shopping Extravaganza Show!
His wide-ranging interests and talents prompted Roots member Questlove to post on his Instagram page: “You were a strange, beautiful soul Allee Willis. We do everything we can for your words. “
Allee Willis was born on November 10, 1947, in Detroit, where as a young woman she was fascinated by music from the headquarters of Motown Records.
In September, at a meeting to celebrate the label’s 60th anniversary, Willis shared memories of sitting on the lawn outside the Motown offices, watching musicians, songwriters and office workers come and go, despite his father’s admonition to “Stay away from black culture.”
Six decades later, he described the event as “the last fulfilment of my childhood fantasy to take the stage at Motown 60 in the finale singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” with [Motown co-founder] Berry Gordy dancing right in front of me!”
He has also exhibited at the Motown Museum, placed among those that highlight the lives and careers of Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela. “I just cry to think about it,” he said at the time.
After studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she moved to New York City. She got a job as a secretary at Columbia Records, first working as a copywriter before turning her attention to songwriting and performance.
Her only album, “Childstar” in 1974, failed commercially, but caught the ear of Bonnie Raitt, who became the first artist to record one of her songs, “Got You On My Mind”. She later became a singer-songwriter for A&M Records. After being introduced by a mutual friend of Earth bassist Wind and Fire Verdine White, she met her brother, Maurice, and began collaborating with him as a writer, obtaining her first hit with “September”.
Earlier this year, the Library of Congress added the song “September,” which Willis wrote with EWF co-founder Maurice White and guitarist Al McKay, to its National Recording Registry in honour of historical and cultural recordings Significant.
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