Allee Willis Biography
Alta Sherral Willis (November 10, 1947 – December 24, 2019), known as Allee Willis, was an American songwriter and director. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for “I’ll Be There For You”, which was used as the theme song for the sitcom Friends, and won two Grammy Awards for Beverly Hills Cop and The Color Purple, the latter of which was also nominated for a Tony Award. Willis also co-wrote hit songs such as “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
Allee Willis, one of the music industry’s most colorful figures, has died at age 72. Her writing credits include Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and the “Friends” theme song.https://t.co/VaEwUJEN34
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 25, 2019
Allee Willis-Early life
Willis was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and said she liked to hang out outside Motown Records to listen to the recording artists play. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a journalism major and sorority member. After college, she worked as a secretary at Columbia Records in New York. Her first and only album, Childstar, did not sell well, and she stopped performing because she did not enjoy it. She worked at a comedy club and hung posters for four years before meeting Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, with whom she wrote the lyrics for her first big hit, September.
Allee Willis wrote songs for artists including Debby Boone, Rita Coolidge, Maxine Nightingale, Crystal Gayle, Sister Sledge, Jennifer Holliday, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Patti LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Crystal Waters, and Taylor Dayne. She was famous for her collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire, for whom she co-wrote hit songs such as “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, and “In the Stone”. Singles she co-composed for other artists that became hits include “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys featuring Dusty Springfield, and “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts. “I’ll Be There for You” was used as the theme song of the sitcom Friends, and went on to become one of the biggest television theme songs of all time. Willis jokingly referred to this song as “the whitest song I ever wrote”. In 1995 Willis was Emmy-nominated for “I’ll Be There for You”.
She also co-wrote the Tony-nominated and Grammy-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. As of 2018, a major motion picture based on the musical is in the early stages of development, being produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and Scott Sanders.
On September 28, 2017 Willis premiered “The D”, a passion project she wrote, recorded, and produced for her hometown of Detroit, at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Willis died in Los Angeles on December 24, 2019, at the age of 72. The cause of death was cardiac arrest.
The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States. Willis won two Grammys from three nominations.
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1986||“Beverly Hills Cop“||Best Soundtrack Album Background Score from a Motion Picture or Television||Won|
|2006||“The Color Purple“||Best Musical Show Album||Nominated|
|2016||“The Color Purple“||Best Musical Theatre Album||Won|
Willis was also nominated for an Emmy Award.
|1995||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music||“Friends“||Nominated|