Allee Willis, the songwriter who wrote the theme tune for US sitcom Friends, has died aged 72.
The Detroit-born musician suffered a sudden heart attack and died yesterday (December 24). Her partner Prudence Fenton paid tribute to her on Instagram, writing: “Rest in Boogie Wonderland.”
Willis co-wrote ‘I’ll Be There For You’, which went on to be recorded by The Rembrandts, with Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman in 1995. She was nominated for an Emmy for the track in the same year, missing out on the award to the theme for Star Trek: Voyager.
The songwriter moved to New York in 1969 where she worked as a copywriter at Columbia and Epic Records, getting her start as a songwriter three years later. Since then, songs penned by her have reportedly sold more than 60 million records around the world, while she was also nominated for two Grammys for her work on the soundtracks for Beverly Hills Cop and the musical version of The Color Purple.
Willis was also responsible for tracks such as Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland’, Pet Shop Boys’ Dusty Springfield collaboration ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, and the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Neutron Dance’. She described ‘September as being “that song that when people found out I’d written that, they just go, ‘Oh my God’ and then tell me in some form how happy that song makes them every time they hear it.”
In her career, she also collaborated with the likes of Herbie Hancock, James Brown, and Bob Dylan, and wrote the theme song for The Karate Kid in Joe Esposito’s ‘You’re The Best’. She was recently pictured working with Big Sean. In 2018, Willis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
Willis is survived by her brother Kent, sister Marlin Frost, and niece Mandy Becker.
Tributes are being shared to Willis on social media, with the Pointer Sisters tweeting: “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”.
Questlove paid his respects on Instagram, writing: “She was truly the Best! Around! And no spirit will ever keep your songs down…your words Lead Us On all night long….& thats All That Matters To Me….you were a strange beautiful soul Allee Willis we are all the better for your words. Rest in melody.”
Read those and more tributes below.
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
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Do u remember…the 24th day of December….when the Queen of our jam called “September” was suddenly called away…..so no one told us life was gonna be this way (clap furiously 4 times) we burned doing the Neutron Dance in Boogie Wonderland…..she was an All American Girl from The D ….where another notable Motown resident in 98 made his mark Gettin This Money sampling her “Just Come Running To Me”…I guess it’s written In The Stone that we must Stir It Up now & scream “I’m Alive”!?? What have we…what have we….What Have We Done To Deserve This? She was truly the Best! Around! And no spirit will ever keep your songs down…your words Lead Us On all night long….& thats All That Matters To Me….you were a strange beautiful soul Allee Willis we are all the better for your words. Rest in melody #AlleeWillis #September #BoogieWonderland #InTheStone #CantLetGo #NeutronDance #StirItUp #JustComeRunningToMe #YoureTheBest (Karate Kid) #WhatHaveIDoneToDeserveThis #AllAmericanGirls #IllBeThereForYou
Was only thinking yesterday that September by Earth Wind And Fire is one of the greatest records ever made and today sad news that Allee Willis who co-wrote it ( also Boogie Wonderland and Friends) has died. Crack open the sherry and play it
— Stuart Maconie (@StuartMaconie) December 25, 2019
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) December 25, 2019
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