Earth Wind and Fire songwriter Allee Willis dies at 72

Songwriter Allee Willis, who wrote a stack of hits for funk band Earth Wind and Fire, as well as hits for Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, and the theme tune to Friends, has died aged 72.

The songwriter’s death was announced by her partner Prudence Fenton. Willis died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Tuesday.

Willis clocked up over 60 million record sales during her career, writing many well known songs for a wide variety of artists.

Among her many success was a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys What Have I done to Deserve This?  The song saw the duo collaborate with soul legend Dusty Springfield.

She first found success writing with soul band Earth Wind and Fire in the 1970’s. She penned some of their biggest hits including September and Boogie Wonderland. 

Taylor Swift covered September but Willis was not a fan of her take on the tune describing it “as lethargic as a drunk turtle dozing under a sunflower after ingesting a bottle of Valium, and I thought it had all the build of a one-storey motel”.

Over the decades she penned hits including Lead Me On for Maxine Nightingale, Neutron Dance for the Pointer Sisters, Stir It Up for Patti Labelle, Who Let in the Rain by Cyndi Lauper.

Rita Coolidge, Herbie Hancock, Bonnie Raitt, Amii Stewart, Jimmy Cliff, Melissa Manchester, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Sharon Redd, Aretha Franklin, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, The Nolans, Bette Midler, Boy George, Sheena Easton and RuPaul are just a small selection of the artists who recorded songs Willis wrote.

The song which Willis created for the theme to TV show Friends however is possibly the most played tune she created. Recorded by The Rembrandts, Willis originally only wrote the short verse and chorus for the song. The Rembrandts added a second verse had the song charted around the world. Willis described it “as the whitest song I ever wrote.”

Willis also found success on Broadway, co-authoring the successful music The Colour Purple. Alongside writing music she also directed some classic videos for bands like Blondie and The Cars.  

She is remembered for her outrageous dress style, and her legendary parties. Her pink tones house in Hollywood was known as Willis Wonderland and was her own personal museum of kitsch.

OIP Staff

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