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Allee Willis (1947–2019), songwriter who wrote “Friends” theme and “September”

Getty Images / FilmMagic / Bruce Glikas

Willis' other songwriting credits include "Neutron Dance" and "What Have I Done to Deserve This"

Allee Willis was a songwriter who was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing the theme song to “Friends,” “I’ll Be There for You.” She worked with Earth, Wind & Fire frequently, co-writing their hits including “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “In the Stone.” Willis won two Grammy Awards, one for co-writing the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of “The Color Purple,” and the other for her work for the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, for which she co-wrote the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Patti LaBelle’s “Stir it Up.” Her other notable songwriting credits include the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Got You on My Mind.” She was a 2018 inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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Died: December 24, 2019 (Who else died on December 24?)

Details of death: Died at a Los Angeles-area hospital of cardiac arrest at the age of 72.


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Short-lived recording career: Willis recorded a single album, “Childstar,” in 1974. It didn’t sell many copies, and Willis found she didn’t like performing as a musician. But Bonnie Raitt heard “Childstar,” and she liked it enough to ask Willis to write for her. That resulted in “Got You on My Mind,” a jumpstart to Willis’ songwriting career.

Willis on writing “September”: “I’m someone that absolutely loves writing very joyful music. And with everything else I’ve ever written, it’s still 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. For me… that’s it.” —From a 2008 interview with Songfacts

What people said about her: “Allee Willis was a one-of-a-kind creative genius. Her love, spirit and artistry are forever woven into the fabric and legacy of Earth, Wind & Fire. She will be sorely missed. Rest in Love.” —Earth, Wind & Fire

“Allee Willis was both an avant-garde and populist composer. She pushed the envelope and broke down the societal barriers both in her music and her life choices. She also threw the most inventive parties I have ever attended. I adored her. Her legacy speaks for itself.” —Actor and musician Michael Des Barres

“What a well rounded songwriter Allee Willis was. September, the Friends theme, The Color Purple. But dearest to my heart, she’ll be remembered for the greatest montage anthem of all time, You’re the Best.” —Screenwriter Josh Heald

Full obituary: The New York Times

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