Allee Willis, a Grammy-winning songwriter and the Tony-nominated composer and lyricist of The Color Purple, passed away December 24 at age 72. Having penned a number of popular songs throughout her career, Ms. Willis sold more than 50 million records—including the Earth, Wind & Fire hits “September” and “Boogie Wonderland.”
Ms. Willis is the winner of a 1986 Grammy Award for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (with Danny Sembello, she wrote “Stir It Up,” performed by Patti LaBelle) and an Emmy nominee for the Friends theme song, "I'll Be There For You" (composed by Michael Skloff and performed by the Rembrandts).
In 2006 she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score for the Broadway adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, a score she co-wrote with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray. That same year, she was credited on the Broadway musical Hot Feet, director-choreographer Maurice Hines' retelling of of a Hans Christian Andersen fable featuring the music of Earth, Wind & Fire.
When The Color Purple was revived in 2015, Ms. Willis was part of the team that earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
Alongside her songwriting career, Ms. Willis was a performer, multimedia artist, and director (she was directing Allee Willis Loves Detroit, a feature-length documentary about Detroit, where she was from). She was also an innovator; she prototyped a social network for artists in 1992, called Willisville, and in 1997, addressed Congress on cyberspace, making a case for the property rights of songwriters.
Ms. Willis' death was confirmed to The New York Times by her publicist. Prudence Fenton, Ms. Willis’s longtime partner, also shared the news on Instagram with the caption: “Rest in Boogie Wonderland,” a reference to the Earth, Wind & Fire song that Ms. Willis co-penned with Bob Lind. See the post below.