I never drank coffee before I was 21 and almost fainted in a doctor’s office after he gave me a shot and a big cup of coffee to keep me from going down all the way. Slowly but surely over the next few months I built up a taste to it and by the time I started living in recording studios in the late 70′s when I got my big break with Earth Wind & Fire I was up to 20+ cups a day as social breaks at the coffee machine and playing Pong was the only time I ever saw sunshine.
I never actually used this cup to drink out of, mainly because it was too heavy to pick up full and take a delicate sip from and the coffee was too cold by the time the weight was manageable. So it’s spent three decades as a candy dish, pen holder and even made it on to MTV from 1989-91 as part of “Just Say Julie”, the first music video clip show ever, when it hung in Uptown Julie Brown’s set that I art-directed.
I used to work around the clock. Now I’m at a more human 12 – 16 hours a day. But oftentimes the nights still seem like a bottomless cup.
It was the 21st night of September, the opening line of my very first hit song as well as the date of the grand opening party celebrating the launch of awmok.com, my mini social network and ongoing museum exhibit of all things Kitsch. I am SO NOT the songwriter type to get up at a party and perform but this was the night that tradition broke. As it was a special night in my musical history as well as a night to celebrate kitsch I decided to let anyone who wanted to sing sing bad karaoke versions of September.I also brought a bunch of cheap, thrift shop instruments with me – a knockoff Beatles Apollo bass with three strings, a 1981 Casio keyboard with 2 1/2 octaves and a missing middle C. key – just in case any of the famous musicians in attendance might want to play along my style.
As any of you familiar with me know, I’m a massive fan of smooshing together very high and very low elements of art that most people would create, perform or perpetuate in very different spaces and times. I live for moments where the incredible thinking, technology and execution at the top collide with the passion and dedication (and not necessarily talent) at the bottom.
Moments like these have allowed me to see some of my Greatest Hits performed by the best and the worst at once. Like when my discoveries, the Del Rubio Triplets, octogenarian identical triplets in miniskirts and go-go boots and of questionable musical prowess, performed “Neutron Dance” with The Pointer Sisters the very week the record was in the Top 10. I’m elated to report that the 21st night of September a couple of weeks ago was an opportunity for another such performance.
In walks Larry Dunn, original Earth Wind & Fire keyboard player extraordinaire who played on every single significant EWF hit, and Verdine White, cofounding member who’s still in EWF, greatest bass player who ever lived and the man who discovered me and brought me to the group back in 1978. And there’s Luenell, hysterical off-color comedienne who is literally the number one Earth Wind & Fire fan in the world. She carries their Greatest Hits CD with her wherever she goes and watches aEWF Collection DVD every day, swear to God. She’s been in love with Larry Dunn since she first caught sight of his perfectly carved Afro in the early 1970s.
Here are three 6 minute videos documenting one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life at a party. Part 1 is a set up, where Luenell meets her idols NI announced that anyone who has the balls to sing September with Earth Wind & Fire in the house is welcome to him. Part two is September and part 3 is Boogie Wonderland. I have video cameras going almost every minute of the day. It’s moments like they that would never translate unless you were there to see it that make me thankful I spend every dime I earn on tape, cameras and people to point them.
Last thing I’ll say here is to make sure and go to AWMoK.com, the reason everyone was here to celebrate and where so many people have gone to keep the party going
It was the 21st night of September, the opening line of my very first hit song as well as the date of the grand opening party at LA’s Ghettogloss celebrating the launch of AWMoK.com, The Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch, my mini social network and ongoing exhibit of all things Kitsch. I am SO NOT the type to get up at a party and perform my own songs but this was the night that tradition broke.
Seems like there are hundreds of photos circulating on the Internet from my party Monday night where, among a zillion other things, members of Earth Wind & Fire performed in a parking lot for anyone who wanted to sing my EWF hits, “September” and “Boogie Wonderland”.
What’s to make me join yet another social network when I’m already a member of so many, dragging myself ’round the clock to fulfill my duties as a responsible citizen on each of them? What’s to make me listen to a record that sounds like everything else – same beat, loop or intellectually challenged lyric? It’s one thing to be first. It’s another to be 43rd.