Legendary songwriter Allee Willis has died at 72 after a sudden cardiac event, as The New York Times reports. Willis’ credits over the years include songs for Earth, Wind, & Fire, including “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” and the score for the The Color Purple musical. She also co-wrote “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme song for Friends that was then recorded by the Rembrandts.
She won two Grammys — one for her work on Color Purple and another for the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop — and was nominated for an Emmy and a Tony. In 2018, Willis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
Willis was born in Detroit in 1947 and moved to New York City after getting a journalism degree from the University Of Wisconsin. She copyedited and wrote liner notes for Columbia and Epic Records before starting to record music of her own, including her own 1974 album Childstar that attracted the attention of Bonnie Raitt. She moved to Los Angeles and got a publishing deal in 1977, and went on to write songs that have sold over 50 million copies. She had been described as “a queen of kitsch” and sold her own artwork through her website.
Last year, after Taylor Swift covered Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September,” she spoke up and memorably said that her version sounded “as lethargic as a drunk turtle dozing under a sunflower after ingesting a bottle of Valium.”