Allee Willis Dies: Songwriter Of ‘Friends’ Theme Was 72
Emmy-nominated and Grammy-winning songwriter Allee Willis died Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, of a suspected heart attack. She was 72. Willis’ long-term partner Prudence Fenton announced her death on Instagram. “Rest In Boogie Wonderland Nov 10,1947-December 24, 2019,” Fenton wrote next to a photo of Willis, referring to one of the Earth, Wind & Fire hits Willis had co-written.
Willis also composed “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts, which was used as a theme song for NBC’s hugely popular comedy series Friends and became one of the biggest TV theme song hits ever. “I’ll Be There for You” earned Willis an Emmy nomination.
Willis also co-wrote the Broadway musical The Color Purple and the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, winning Grammy awards for both.
In addition to “Boogie Wonderland”, Willis’ collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire produced the hit “September”. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
Willis, whose compositions sold over 60 million records, collaborated with artists such as Bob Dylan, James Brown, Patti LaBelle, Deniece Williams, Herbie Hancock and Motown great Lamont Dozier.
A Detroit native, Willis moved to New York in 1969 after graduating with a journalism degree at the University of Wisconsin, according to her bio on Songwriters Hall of Fame website songhall.org. She worked as a copywriter at Columbia and Epic Records before sequeing to music and songwriting in 1972. Bonnie Raitt became the first artist to cover her songs, after hearing her 1974 Epic album Childstar.
Also a praised performer, visual and multimedia artist, Willis created one of the world’s biggest collections of kitsch, and in 2009, launched The Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch website. She also had worked in art direction, set design and animation, earning recognition by the Webby and W3 awards for her Allee Willis Presents Bubbles & Cheesecake music video collaboration with singer-songwriter Holly Palmer. She also created lilytomlin.com as an online tour of Lily Tomlin’s life.
Active in protecting artist rights in cyberspace, Willis took the issue in an address before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property in 1997, representing three million BMI songwriters.
Here is Friends’ theme song: