Allee Willis’ Soul O’ The Day – R.I.P. Ashford, Leiber and Ragavoy

What are the odds of losing two of the most influential songwriters of all time on the same day?  That’s what happened yesterday. First, Jerry Lieber, whose “Hound Dog” got the Elvis-not-to-mention-Rock-’n-Roll train rolling, and then Nick Ashford, a songwriter whose influence on me was immeasurable. I never met Jerry, though I wrote  a bunch of songs with his son, Oliver, in the early 90′s. But Nick I knew and loved. Not just as a songwriter who wrote my favorite song of all time but as one of nicest guys around. His eyes always sparkled, he was always smiling and soul oozed out of him as naturally as breath.

Along with his brilliant wife and collaborator, Valerie Simpson, Nick turned out the kind of songs that made my songwriting head spin. Can you say “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”?! How does a song get any better than that?? In any of the zillions of versions of it that exist? And that’s just the tip of the hitberg.

When my musical, The Color Purple, opened on Broadway, Nick and Val were there. And when Chaka Kahn came in as Sofia a couple of years later they were there again. I don’t know where Valerie was for this shot with me, my Color Purple collaborator, Brenda Russell, and Patti LaBelle, the singer who first started regularly doing my songs back in the day, but that big smile was typical of how Nick always walked around.

Nick and Val also came to the Broadway opening of Hot Feet, the Earth Wind & Fire musical I had seven songs in. Here we are with Maurice White, founder and lead singer of EWF and who gave me the biggest break of my career with “September” and all that followed, and LaChanze, who won a Tony for playing Celie in The Color Purple.

Nick and Val were among the most supportive songwriters ever. I can’t even tell you how incredible it made me feel as a songwriter every time they told me how much they loved my music.

Which is amazing because the only time I ever got to work with them was on a really stinky song in a really stinky movie. In 1987, Scott Sanders, who later produced The Color Purple, managed Ashford & Simpson and asked me to write and produce a song for them. My collaborator, Danny Sembello‘s, mom got very sick right after we began and he had to bow out of the project. I was in way over my head without him. If you know bad movies and didn’t know I did the song that everyone dances to in the infamous McDonalds scene,“Down To Earth”, in the kitschingly horrendous Mac and Me, I know you’re plotzing now. And you certainly can’t imagine royalty like Ashford & Simpson gracing that mess either. So even more impressive that they remained so kind and supportive of me through the years. But I shouldn’t be talking about bad songs when honoring such an iconic being as Nick Ashford. Everyone should be as blessed to have such a joyous soul in their life.

Just a few weeks ago another iconic songwriter and friend passed, Jerry Ragovoy. Not only did he write such gems as “Piece Of My Heart” and “Time Is On My Side”, but he discovered an unknown songwriter named Allee Willis and produced her one and only album, Childstar, in 1974.

This hasn’t been a very happy month for songwriters. Though if I think about the jam going on upstairs it makes me smile. Besides, these are the kind of guys that live forever. R.I.P. Jerry Leiber, Nick Ashford and Jerry Ragovoy. If ever there were Rock ‘n Roll royalty this is it.

 

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Categories: Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, R.I.P., Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Jukebox Tip Tray and My First Time Singing On Stage In Mannnnny Years…..

Mere days after my first and only album, Childstar, was released on Epic Records in 1974, I walked on stage in front of 10,000 people to open in Boston for folksinger David Bromberg.

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Categories: Accessories, Afro, Art, Boogie Wonderland, Creative process, Creativity, Disco, Discography, Earth Wind & Fire, empowerment, Fashion, Friends theme, Games, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Neutron Dance, Party, School, Self expression, September, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ “The 365 Days Of September” – Day 9

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I’m always happy when my work inspires folks to take on their own creative endeavors. But in this case, the spirit of my song, “September”, just might have inspired a little too much confidence in three college boys out to make a concept video. I get the fact that the guy in front suspects something is going on yet somehow misses that there are two (bad) dancers prancing behind him, but as storytelling goes this sinks like a tugboat loaded with cement. I especially love that the dancers often duck prematurely, even before the guy in front turns around to discover nothing. And sometimes the music just mysteriously stops. Best is once the innocent in front leaves the room so that the guys don’t have to mime anymore, one of them continues to silently mouth the song. Once it turns into a full-blown dance off, I can’t say I would be awarding any prize other than to advise them that their allowance money ought to go towards a new mic. Without question, the best part of this video is the toilet paper covering the door of the room across the hall.

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Categories: 365 Days Of September, Dance, Kitsch, Music, People, Self expression, September, Songwriting, video

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Allee Willis’ Soul O’ Day – Earth Wind & Fire At the Hollywood Bowl with a Seventy Piece Orchestra and Fireworks!

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Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go to concerts. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the walking, I don’t like someone singing next to me or standing up in front of me dancing. I understand this is the nature of concerts and I’m not out to change that so I was always happier sinking my head under a set of headphones and listening to the intricacies of the music rather than the  idiosyncrasies of the crowd. This includes concerts where my own music is being performed. Of the hundreds and hundreds of songs of mine that have been cut I’ve seen maybe ten of them performed live. One of the most memorable nights ever for me was in 1979 at the Los Angeles Forum when half of the songs performed by Earth Wind & Fire were mine, including “September”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “In the Stone”.  Although I’m blessed to have some of my tunes among their most popular I never saw the band perform live again. Until last Friday night when I saw a performance that blew my head off my shoulders and still has me skipping along the sidewalks of Los Angeles, a very happy girl.

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Celebrity, Creativity, Dance, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Party, People, September, TV/Radio, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Vintage Bongos & Pomplamoose

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These 1950′s bongos with pearlized crushed ice wrap and heavy chrome hardware have been beaten on just about every song I ever wrote.  If it weren’t for their bone crushing girth they would be in my suitcase right now as I’m on my way up to northern CA. to finish six songs with Pomplamoose.

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Categories: Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, Pomplamoose, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day update – Disco suitcases temporarily retired

My trip was postponed for a month so the suitcases on are back in the closet and the percussion is resting nicely in its regular bed.

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Categories: Creativity, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, Pomplamoose, Songwriting, Travel

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What Social Networks And Songwriting Have In Common

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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.

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Categories: Afro, Boogie Wonderland, Earth Wind & Fire, Lyrics, Music, Social networks, Songwriting

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – James Brown, Me & How To Write for Money

 

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Categories: Afro, Celebrity, Discography, empowerment, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, People, Reality tv, Songwriting, video

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The Reality Of Being A Songwriter

grammy-winning-85 Winning the Grammy in 1986

Yesterday I wrote an open email to a widely read music industry newsletter re the longstanding mistreatment of songwriters in the entertainment industry, veering off into the music industry ignoring the Internet until it had almost swallowed them up. Today, Mark Cuban posted this on his Facebook page which led to it spreading virally. I’ve had so many people email me and send me Facebook messages today I decided to post what I wrote myself:

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Categories: Art, Consumer Alert!, Creativity, Discography, Financial, Friends theme, Interactivity, Lyrics, Music, Neutron Dance, People, Self expression, Social networks, Songwriting, Technology, willisville

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“Badeya, Say do you remember…?”

A friend just sent me this. It was on Ellen two years ago. 

 

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Categories: Art, Kitsch, Music, Songwriting

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