26 December 2019 02:37
It is one of the most recognizable songs in the world. At the beginning of the TV show Friends, now a global phenomenon, viewers hear the stirring power pop of The Rembrandt's "I'll Be There for You." It begins with a memorable guitar lick, and heads into the indelible lyrics, "So no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA." The song was co-written by legendary songwriter Allee Willis, who died today of cardiac arrest at 72. Willis, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, also co-wrote classics like Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" and "Boogie Wonderland," as well as the Pet Shop Boys "What Have I Done to Deserve This." She collaborated on the Tony Award winning musical The Color Purple and the Grammy Award winning score for Beverly Hills Cop. Her songs have sold over 60 million records, though she had no formal musical training. In 2012, she spoke to an audience about how "September" came about.
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Willis was inspired by the music that came out of Motown Records in 1960 and 1970s. Like Motown greats Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Willis had a knack for combining a catchy melody with a propulsive rhythm. In addition to writing songs, a 2018 New York Times profile of Willis points out that she was also an artist, furniture maker, set designer and videographer. Despite her many accomplishments, Willis's most long-lasting legacy is likely to be "I'll Be There for You," despite it being a song she "really didn't like" when she wrote it. In 2018, Netflix subscribers watched 54.3 million hours of Friends, making it the second most popular show on the streaming site.
"I, very thankfully, have a few songs that will not go away," Willis told the New York Times, "but they're schlepping along 900 others." Allee Willis, one of the music industry's most colorful figures, whose eclectic credits as a writer and co-writer included Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" and the "Friends" theme song, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Los Angeles. The cause was cardiac arrest, her publicist, Ellyn Solis, said. The animator and producer Prudence Fenton, Ms. Willis's partner of 27 years, posted a photo on Instagram with the caption: "Rest in Boogie Wonderland," referring to the Earth, Wind & Fire disco hit that Ms. Willis wrote with Bob Lind. Ms. Willis, who grew up in Detroit, never learned to play music. But she was drawn to Motown as a child, and said she learned how to become a songwriter by sitting on the lawn outside the record company's studios and listening to the rhythms seeping through the building's walls. "A lot of times I would learn a bass line and then I'd hear the records and I'd go, Oh, that was 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine,'" she told The New York Times last year. Allee Willis, colorful songwriter behind 'September' and 'Friends' theme, dies at 72 She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for a sprawling catalog that included collaborations with Earth, Wind & Fire and the Pet Shop Boys.