Allee Willis, 'September' songwriter and Detroit native, dies at 72

December 25, 2019, 2:01 PM

Grammy-winning songwriter and Detroit native Allee Willis died of a heart attack Tuesday in Los Angeles, media outlets report. She was 72.

Willis drew inspiration from Motown while growing up on the city's west side, going on to create hits like Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" and "Boogie Wonderland," and the “Friends” theme, "I'll be there for you."


Rest In Boogie Wonderland Nov 10,1947-December 24, 2019

A post shared by Prudence Fenton (@prufencef) on

A Wednesday post on Willis' Instagram page says: "We are extremely shocked and devastated to share this news.⁣"

Her partner, Prudence Fenton, posted a photo of Willis beside a Motown historical marker, captioned: "Rest In Boogie Wonderland Nov. 10,1947-Dec. 24, 2019."

The Motown Museum shared a statement with the Free Press:

"We are devasted over the loss of Allee Willis," said Robin Terry, CEO and chairwoman of the Motown Museum. "Allee was an exceptional songwriter and truly unique human being. She was kind, generous, and her humor was unmatched.

"We feel deeply honored to have worked with her on our recent exhibit and the Motown 60th celebration in Detroit. Her colorful energy will be missed in the world but her spirit will live on in the iconic songs she created for all of us to enjoy."

Willis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last year, when a New York Times profile called her the "Queen of Kitsch Who Made the Whole World Sing."

In addition to writing for Earth Wind and Fire and the Rembrandts, Willis was also behind "You're the best," the theme from "The Karate Kid," the Pointer Sisters’ "Neutron Dance," the Pet Shop Boys’ and Dusty Springfield’s "What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” and Patti LaBelle’s "Stir It Up."

She also co-wrote the Broadway adaptation of "The Color Purple," for which she and her team received a Grammy. She also won a Grammy for work on the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack.

Among Willis' final projects was a 2017 over-the-top ode to Detroit, featuring the voices of about 5,000 residents and people with connections to the city.

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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