Allee Willis, the Emmy-nominated and Grammy-winning songwriter behind the theme song to Friends, has passed away at the age of 72. Her partner Prudence Fenton announced the music figure's death in a post on Instagram.
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"Rest in Boogie Wonderland Nov 10, 1947-December 24, 2019," Fenton wrote in the caption of a photo showing Willis in front of the historical sign for Motown.
Her reported cause of death was unofficially announced as a cardiac event according to MSN News.
Willis is likely best known to modern audiences for her hand in writing the popular theme song to Friends. It became a massive hit for The Rembrandts in 1995, with various resurgences throughout the late 90s. While the TV show version itself was popular, the three-minute single supported by a music video featuring the cast from the NBC sitcom.
Before the success with the Friends theme, Willis was best known for her collaboration with Earth, Wind and Fire that helped produce hits like "September," "Boogie Wonderland" and "In the Stone." She also had a hand in "The Neutron Dance" for The Pointer Sisters and "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" by the Pet Shop Boys.
"I, very thankfully, have a few songs that will not go away,” Willis said in a profile for The New York Times.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Willis was inspired by the music of Motown in her career and it showed throughout the music she helped create according to USA Today.
"I spent almost every Saturday of my youth either being dropped off at Motown or, once I had a license, driving down there. I literally would just sit out on that lawn for hours," Willis said in the 2018 interview with the Free Press. "This was early '60s, so it was (Motown's) heyday. Every now and then, you could hear stuff leaking through the walls, so I'd hear bass lines and drum patterns and background vocals. Those are literally the only lessons I ever had."
Willis earned an Emmmy Award for her work on the Friends theme song and a Grammy for the soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop. She later won her second Grammy Award in 2016 for her work on the Broadway revival for The Color Purple. Her success also earned her an induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2018, coinciding with a distinguished achievement award from the Detroit Music Awards according to USA Today.
Even more impressive is her lack of formal music training before her successful career.
"I think that whole way of listening to stuff in parts is still very much the way I write," Willis said. "It taught me to be an arranger as well as a songwriter. I'm so insanely attached to Motown and all the music that was coming out of Detroit, and it gave me a love for that kind of music. There's no question: Had I grown up anywhere else, I would not ever have been a songwriter. Because I certainly don't have the skills to be it."