‘Friends’ and ‘September’ Songwriter Allee Willis Dies at 72
Allee Willis, the prolific songwriter known for penning Friends theme song “I’ll Be There For You” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” died on Christmas Eve. Willis, known for her colorful personality and love of all things kitsch as much as her songwriting, suffered a cardiac event, according to her publicist.
The Grammy-winner, who was also nominated for an Emmy and a Tony (for co-writing the music for The Color Purple), was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Earth, Wind & Fire was my favorite group in the world, and [I was approached about] writing for a couple of groups [EW&F’s] Verdine [White] was producing. He said, ‘I’m going to tell my brother about you.’ A couple of nights later, the phone rang, and it was Maurice White and it was an amazing conversation. He said, ‘Do you want to write the next Earth, Wind & Fire album with me?’ I went to the studio, and we started working on ‘September’ the very first day. What rhymes with ‘September’? ‘Remember’!,” she told Billboard back in 2018, of writing the iconic song. She also co-wrote the band’s hit, “Boogie Wonderland.”
EW&Fs Philip Bailey took to Twitter to fete Willis.
— It would be like Allee Willis to Take Flight at a time of the most Holy of days.
You will be missed my friend.
Until we meet again.
Love And Light. pic.twitter.com/8I2MpNGaeL
— Philip Bailey (@PhilipBaileyEWF) December 25, 2019
Songwriter Siedah Garrett also posted a treasured memory.
Years ago, before sampling, Allee and I were writing a song together, we titled it “Chainsaw”, so she left the session to go buy one from Home Depot for an authentic sound effect. #RIP Allee Willis, heaven has received it’s Xmas present. #songwriter #legend #RIPAlleeWillis #music pic.twitter.com/bmOmGk35Mb
— SIEDAH GARRETT (@SIEDAHGARRETT) December 25, 2019
In her 40-year career, Willis also wrote songs for Patti LaBelle (“Stir It Up”), the Pet Shop Boys (“What Have I Done to Deserve This”), the Pointer Sisters (“Neutron Dance”), and many more. The Pointer Sisters reflected on their work with her on Twitter.
Hit making songwriter ALLEE WILLIS has passed away. Condolences to friends, family and fans. Gratitude & respect for her work & fun, festive & artistic personality. Among some of the songs of hers we recorded was our oh so fun & loved NEUTRON DANCE ❤️❤️❤️–. pic.twitter.com/wRcFT8vXkb
— The Pointer Sisters (@PointerOfficial) December 25, 2019
Most recently, she was collaborating with rapper (and fellow Detroit native) Big Sean, who spent time co-writing with her at her home in Los Angeles this year. She so loved her hometown that in 2013, when the city declared bankruptcy, she co-wrote a song, “The D,” and held a month-long series of singalongs that helped raise money for two arts organizations.
Other fellow songwriters and artists also weighed in.
Allee Willis, who had hits with so many wonderful artists, Earth Wind & Fire, the Pointer Sisters, and who wrote the score for the Broadway hit “The Color Purple” has died. My condolences to all her friends in the music community, and in Los Angeles, where she was so beloved.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) December 25, 2019
RIP Allee Willis. Thanks for so many great songs, but most of all “September” which is the best and most feel-good song ever. ❤️ https://t.co/EIuqK7KdFI
— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) December 25, 2019
The 72-year-old, who was born on Nov. 10, 1947, is survived by her partner of 27 years, Prudence Fenton.