The SCL is deeply saddened to report that songwriter member Allee Willis, best known for her work with Earth, Wind & Fire, the theme from the television series Friends and the songs she co-wrote for the musical The Color Purple, died Tuesday in Los Angeles of cardiac arrest. She was 72. She had recently been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for her outstanding work on such songs as “Neutron Dance,” Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” and “Boogie Wonderland”, the theme from The Karate Kid, “You’re The Best” and the Pet Shop Boys’ and Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”
Willis was most recently part of the 2019 SCL Songwriter Mentor Program, providing mentees a visit to her extraordinary “kitchsy” 1937 Streamline Moderne Los Angeles home which many knew as Willis Wonderland, a true museum of pop culture history. It was recently the setting of a photo shoot for Variety’s Billie Eilish cover, and features artifacts and memorabilia as well as her own eclectic artwork.
She also gave a presentation for the SCL at The Garry Marshall Theatre with her collaborators Stephen Bray and Brenda Russell to talk about co-writing The Color Purple, their musical that garnered a Grammy Award, and another which she won for her contribution to the Beverly Hills soundtrack twenty years earlier. She and her collaborators were also nominated for a Tony Award for The Color Purple and she was nominated for an Emmy Award for the theme from Friends.
She told SCL mentees that she’d also been a performance artist and discussed the importance of doing everything she did – songwriting, set designing, working in film, video, technology – and how these all worked to make her a better artist in all categories. She was insightful, creative, kind and generous, and she will be sorely missed by her friends and colleagues in the Society of Composers & Lyricists and the music world.
– Adryan Russ
SCL SongArts Chair