"The D" Updates


 
 
October 11, 2017 


Allee Willis' "The D" premiere!! - Finally... See it/ Hear it!
 
“The D” is done!! Hard to believe, but following a thrilling, harrowing, joyous, traumatic + every other polar opposite emotional experience one could stuff into a human existence, my everyday-for-5-years passion project for my hometown featuring 5000 lead singers and musicians, more people than have ever been on a record before, finally premiered in the Motor City at the historic Detroit Institute of Arts on September (of course SEPTEMBER) 28, 2017. The outpouring of love, appreciation, and pure Detroit spirit was palpable to every one of the 3000 folks who jammed in to meet and play with the new baby.
 
 
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There's links to every place "The D" is available online at the end of this email. But if you want to see/hear this sonic extravaganza now to put the rest of this treatise in context, you can divert here. BUT only if you promise to return to read about one of the most fantastically funky, fun-filled nights Detroit or I have ever had. Seriously.
 
 
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Guests, a true cultural potpourri of the real Detroit, started the evening off watching "The D" in the Detroit Film Theatre. Finally being able to present something I had promised over five years ago as a theme song to accompany the city's reinvention - at the time of recording very few signs that any such sunny fate could befall Detroit were in evidence - was about the most personally gratifying artistic moment I've ever had. 
 
 
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Guests then followed tasteful tableaus I made in collaboration with Bubbles the artist, my alter-ego who I manage, leading them to the the main party rooms. Apologies to Renoir, Monet, Calder, Rembrandt, et al. who had to put up with this for the night. 
 
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And special thanks to Andrae Alexander and Narada Michael Walden for helping to make “The D” sonically worthy of all this attention!)
 
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Although people were scattered over half of the ground floor of the DIA, the fifth largest museum in the world, the heart of the party was in massive Great Hall and Rivera Court, the latter of which is completely swathed in Detroit Industry Murals painted by Diego Rivera between 1932 and 1933. It's a staggering gallery. And an even better party room.
 
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As the party began…
 

The sophisticated centerpieces, tastefully mounted on cans of Detroit’s favorite pop, Vernors, matched Diego’s color scheme well.
 
 
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Also matching the colorful Rivera Court walls were several swamps of one of the evening's featured sustenance. By the end of the night not a single piece was left.
 
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I believe the secret of throwing a great party is creating an atmosphere so kitsch, silly, and soulfully filled that people naturally strip themselves of their inhibitions and function at maximum friendly. The trick to this is creating an activity, that although actually very deep, feels almost silly and childlike.  
 
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In this case it was the interactive, mass-collaborative "I AM The D" paper plate portrait wall, a monster 50 x 15 foot installation drawn and erected in real time, one stop shopping that, in its simplicity, revealed a ton about the true sprit and character of Detroit.  
 
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Then there were the sing-alongs, a staple of my performance style ever since I realized the audience knew my songs better than I did. This started with the compulsory singing of "September", the song that was my initial inspiration for writing "The D". I wanted to show that despite it's all-too publicized problems, Detroit was actually an incredibly spiritual and joyous place to live. I know that if you played "September" at a funeral even the corpse's toes would be tapping. So, to get things going we hit the ba-de-ya song first. Detroiters, next to the folks who gave me a career in the first place, the mighty Earth, Wind & Fire, you sing it best!
 
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Were it not for growing up in Detroit at the very moment Motown rose from the asphalt to make the whole world dance, I probably never would have become a songwriter. Though to this day I've never learned to play or read music, melodies and lyrics leap outta my head like grasshoppers. Were it not for sneaking out to Motown so I could plant my teenage self on the front lawn I would have never heard those bass lines and drum patterns leaking outta the walls. The black radio stations were my babysitter. God knows what I would be doing now had I not had such good childcare. 

Which brings me to Paul Riser, a gem of a human being, one of the last surviving Funk Bros. who arranged these gems - "My Girl", "I Heard It Though The Grapevine" (both versions), "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", Tears Of A Clown, and SO many more. So as I'm wont to do when I do anything in the Motor City, we also sang-along to Paul's hits.
 
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Not to be Motowningly outdone, this moment from the tail end of the party - singing “Heatwave" to the record with Martha Reeves - was beyond anything my teenage Motown-soaked brain could have ever fathomed. 
 
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I'm not playing favorites here but Martha’s paper plate portrait earned her many extra points with this party hostess!
 
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And, of course, Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, who I've worked so closely with since 2011 and, in celebration of their 25th anniversary, $.25 of every copy of " The D” sold goes to, regaled the crowd with some Willis Wonderland hits. I had eaten enough candy by that point to convince my sugarcoated throat it wanted to join them for "Neutron Dance”. 
 
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And of course, shooting even more sugar and meaty goodness into the premiere, Chef Greg and his signature Boogaloo Wonderlands, the sandwich made famous in the neighborhood I grew up in and later partially renamed for my song "Boogie Wonderland", were present. Although there were signature D cocktails offered at the bar, Chef Greg's happy-spiked (non alcoholic) red Kool-Aid, served outta milk jugs to insure the authentic Detroit Kool-Aid thang, were the most popular.
 
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o, I will now draw to a close. I'm overwhelmed sorting through thousands of photos and tens of hours of video but hope to have much of it all online within a coupla weeks. (BTW, if you're reading this and were there and are holding some great shots, please shoot them back to me now. I like being overwhelmed.) Though as tired as I am, I’m obviously not as tired as I was when I designed the CD cover, spelling my beloved Detroit completely wrong:
 
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So now, please please, pleeeeease show suport and help me spread the link/s to "The D" around. Yes, it would make me exquisitely happy to see millions of views on a project I worked so hard on. But more than anything, I want the world to see/hear what a happy and alive city Detroit is. It's wonderful that people now acknowledge that we are on our way back. But for all the buildings and stadiums - all very important to the perception of a "new Detroit" – make no mistake that what keeps us ticking is the soul and spirit of the people who live there.

Here are the all important links. Please click!
YouTube: https://youtu.be/EK3alPCC6jI
iTunes, Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon Music: http://smarturl.it/alleelovesdetroit

Yours deep in the D,

Allee
http://www.AlleeWillis.com
The D! https://youtu.be/EK3alPCC6jI 

 
August 24, 2017

Allee Willis' "The D" Set To Premiere in Detroit at the DIA September 28th!!
 
Yeah I know... it's been quite a long time since I wrote an update for this colossal, massive, seemingly never-ending Detroit project of mine, "The D". But it's not for lack of working on it! It's just that after almost five years of attending to it daily my brain was more split up than a pie chart and I decided to just focus on finishing the project, as opposed to writing, tweeting, and otherwise losing my mind from the constant pressure of posting about it. I thought my disappearance into the vacuum of work would last a few months but alas, here we are a year and a half later....

The good news is "The D" IS DONE (!!!). Other than the party to premier it, which takes place Thursday night, September 28, at the historic Detroit Institute of Arts in, obviously, Detroit.

DIA D 4

But anyone who knows me knows that I take party-throwing as seriously if not more than almost any other thing I do. So the planning and prep for this extravaganza has been and remains as intensive as recording and mixing the over 5000 tracks of vocals and instruments for "The D" record -featuring more people in history than have ever been on a record before! - and filming, viewing, editing and animating the thousands of hours of footage to make the matching song-length micro-documentary. So for at least the past four months I've been swathed in a swirl of paint, glitter, and excess brain matter planning this most illustrious event that includes the world premiere of "The D", Boogaloo Wonderland sandwiches (legendary in the neighborhood I grew up in and partially named after my song "Boogie Wonderland"), sing-alongs to more of my hits like "September," and "I'll Be There for You (the Friends theme)", special performances and tributes, and a real-time collaboration with thousands of Detroiters building a 50 foot long "We Are The D" art wall. Normally a place of quiet and elegant contemplation, the DIA will be anything but the night of "September" 28th! And tickets are FREE and you should reserve one here now!

Last thing I want to mention is that my long-time collaborator and friend, Narada Michael Walden, responsible for six out of seven of Whitney Houston's #1's, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, and soooooo many more, just added his touch to our already if-I-do-say-so-myself fantastic mix of the record as well as a special radio mix, so I'm even more excited about this whole thing which sounds different than anything you've ever heard, SWEAR TO GOD!

So Detroiters, reserve your tickets now. Non-Detroiters but who just might happen to be in the Motor City the night of "September" 28, you can grab them too. And I can't wait for everyone else to finally hear and see "The D" the day after the premiere, September 28, once it has been unrolled before the eyeballs of the citizens of the city that inspired and made it.

Yours firmly in The D!
Allee
For more complete info on "The D" go here: www.wesingthed.com
For PARTY TICKETS go here: www.dia.org/theD
Who's Allee? Go here: www.alleewillis.com



December 29, 2015

A very Happy New Year and very purple Detroit
 
Merry holidays and a happy 2016 to all Detroiters and supporters of "The D"/Allee Willis Loves Detroit!
 
 
Two years into it, the record and video of "The D” are just about finished and look and sound fantastic. I think you’ll appreciate the enormous amount of time put into it once you see it as it sure doesn’t resemble any other song any other city has made! I’d love to put it out right now but the release needs to be coordinated closer to the release of the accompanying film, which we are still avidly editing away on, We lost a few months of valuable time but for very good reason: The musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, opened again on Broadway and is a MASSIVE GIGANTIC HIT with outrageously RAVE reviews!

Although I didn't like losing time on "The D"/Allee Willis Loves Detroit, the success of the musical can only help and eventually promote it as The Color Purple is the ultimate story of survival and pushing through whatever obstacles may befall you. The story not only runs parallel to the last few decades’ trajectory of Detroit but to my own life and career. And as my journey with The Color Purple runs through our film it's been a great few months for both me and the fate of the Detroit project.

The crew and I are now back in LA fervently plowing through footage of sing-alongs and such in efforts to speed our Detroit puppy along. In the meantime, here’s a small sample of The Color Purple featuring Jennifer Hudson who magnificently plays Shug Avery. So slug back some eggnog, enjoy, and I will be back with much more Detroit as we continue our lonnng drive to the Motor City.

 

 

Yours in The D,
Allee

 

 

October 8, 2015



ATTENTION ALL DETROITERS!!!

As many of you know and participated in, in SEPTEMBER and November 2013 I came back to my home and favorite town, Detroit, to record “The D", the official unofficial theme song to accompany the reinvention of the city, as well as to shoot the feature-length documentary Allee Willis loves Detroit, about human spirit as seen through the people of Detroit as well as how my life and career parallel their trials and triumphs. NOW, on Monday, October 26 at 1 PM at the DIA you have one more chance to join in one of the most unique collaborations between an artist and a city that has ever taken place!

The 2013 sing-alongs were recorded at 50 locations all over the city when more people in history than have ever been the original artist on a record before - over 6000 Detroiters - came together in one expression of pride, joy and funkiness to let the world know that the Soul has never left the Motor City! They were joined by a plethora of world renowned Detroit born or raised celebrities, as well for the film over 20 Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony, and Pulitzer Prize winning and nominated non-Detroit celebs, all of whom or whose work represents triumphing over struggle despite impossible odds.

Now is your chance to not only join us but to have one of the wildest afternoons of your life at the biggest (and last) sing-along of them all at the DIA in front of the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals on Monday, October 26 at 1 PM! We will teach you the song there and you will be out by 3 PM at the latest.

The message of “The D"/Allee Willis Loves Detroit is the motto I live by – “From the ashes come the miracles" and that against the greatest of obstacles the greatest of things can happen if you only have the imagination, creativity, and guts to try. All of which is happening in Detroit now!

As opposed to other songs and documentaries done on Detroit, this one features no broken windows! And 100% of all profits from the release of the record, video, film, and potential docu-series come back to Detroit, specifically The Heidelberg Project and The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.

You can see who in Detroit has participated so far here.
You can see which celebs we’ve recorded and filmed so far here.
To see press on the project go here.
To see our work progress since the project began go here.
To see everything Allee Detroit go here.

So I hope to see all of you as well as your friends, families, co-workers, anyone and everyone at Detroit’s crown arts jewel, the DIA, on Monday, October 26th at 1 PM. It’s also my big send-off before I go to New York where my musical, The Color Purple, the ultimate story of survival, opens on Broadway again starring the great Jennifer Hudson. So please forward this to all you know and LEMME SEE YOU THERE!

October 8, 2015 update

My D best,
Allee



September 21, 2015



I know – Pathetically long since my last D update. But fear not, (fantastic, arduous, steady, hiccup-filled) progress is being made on “The D” (the Detroit record and video) and Allee Willis loves Detroit (the film)!
 
I never thought I’d live long enough to utter these words but "The D” is 99.1% finished! Though we’re still adding Detroit celebs as we stumble upon them. I humbly guarantee that no city has ever had a song that sounds or feels quite like this one. Imagine if you could hear what this scene sounds like:
 
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Or this:
 
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Or this:
 
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I know, I know. Why ain't those video clips?! Because that would be giving away two years of hard labor wielding the razor to whittle down 5000 vocal and instrument tracks and 30,000 hours of footage shot in the Motor City. We’re now in the midst of securing funding to finish the film, an even more hyped up experiential romp across the limits of audio/visual terrain, not to mention Detroit and human spirit. So all is coming along and all is coming soon(isn)!
 
On to other news: The musical I cowrote, The Color Purple, is opening on Broadway again December 10. I'll be moving the vast D staff of a grand total of three to New York while i’m there so we beavers can continue building the dam. The Color Purple stars the incredible Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks a.k.a Taystee from Orange Is The New Black, and Cynthia Erivo, the brilliant actress who so magnificently played Celie in London. While you wait for "The D"/Allee Willis Loves Detroit here's a little Color Purple to sprinkle on your day:
 
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And for those in LA, I'm once again at UnCabaret this Sunday September 27 with a pork rib shared by Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr., a rousing sing-along of "September" given that this is the ba-de-ya appropriately named month, coupled with a night cap of woes being the songwriter whose (appropriately bombastic) song Donald Trump has chosen as his campaign theme.
 
 
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OK that's it. Hope everyone is well. Back to driving duties as we inch closer to Detroit,
Ba-de-ya!

Allee


June 23, 2015


 
 
Okay folks, it's going to be wild. It ain't no normal show. From James Brown afro-picking out his bouffant in my bathroom to Beatles shoes - with appropriate hosiery of course - to tales of triumph and woe it’s all going down Sunday night, July 12, at Beth Lapides’ famed UnCabaret in downtown LA at the (insanely reasonably priced) benefit for “The D”/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit, the gargantuan more-multi’s-than-were-ever-in-media happening that I’ve been working on for the past three years and counting.
 
It’s one more chance to remind me of my own song lyrics as we sing-along to the hits, win valuable prizes, OD on candy, bone up on Detroit and witness one of the most ambitious undertakings anyone other than someone living in a sanitarium would undertake! Featuring a "sneak peak" (which my dictation originally wrote as "snake bite” which some may deem more appropriate), “sneak peak" at the almost finished “The D”, performed by more people in history than have ever been on a record before, joined by a plethora of Detroit born stars like Mr. Mayer Hawthorne, who graced the Willis Wonderland grounds yesterday as we indulged in a Faygo Red Pop and Rock N Rye institutional D drink slug down :
 
 
I might even do a repeat of my very first choreographed step as performed at the The Skirball Center a couple weeks ago. One might think you could not choreograph a number documenting Paul Simon's diminutive leg sliding into the vortex of a sushi volcano but that's just the kind of entertainment you get when you come to one of my shows!
 
 
So please hit this link and come experience what I can safely say no one else in show business is quite creating while you show some love for the Motor City not to mention the valuable prizes you could leave with.
 
In one other spot of good news, the musical I co-wrote with the lovely Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and Marsha Norman, The Color Purple, opens again on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre December 10, previews beginning on my birthday November 10, faster than any musical has ever had a Broadway revival. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks a.k.a. Taystee in Orange Is The New Black, and Cynthia Erivo, the brilliant actress who played Celie in London. Tickets for that go on sale June 30.
 
But first things first, The Color Allee in LA Sunday night, July 12, UnCabaret, TICKETS NOW PLEASE! Happily there are not many tickets left.
 
Detroitingly yours,
Allee

May 19, 2015



First, In case you haven't read it, here's the if-I-do-say-so-myself-despite-a-few tiny-inaccuracies-great-and-rather-large-piece-on-me and lots about the Detroit project in last Sunday's Washington Post.

Allee Willis

Second, on Sunday night, July 12, it's big ol' party time when the illustrious Andrae and I + band hit the stage for a wild, so-affordable-it's-crazy fundraiser for "The D"/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit"!!, my Detroit-inspired record, video and feature length film about human spirit you must already know about or you wouldn't be reading this. Featuring a sneak peek world premiere of the record and video with more people in history than have ever been the original artist on a record, joined by some of the biggest stars to ever emerge from the Motor City. Also sing-alongs to some of some of my fattys like "September," "Boogie Wonderland," "Neutron Dance," and the Friends theme, as well as auctions from the legendary Allee Willis Museum Of Kitsch collection! Many more surprises at this outrageous multimedia live feast for the eyes, ears and soul!! Tickets, thankfully going fast, are here.

Allee Willis

Third, we are making fairly stunning progress on "The D" record and video, both of which are in the area of 85/90% finished. We are constantly diverted from the filmmaking mission having to prepare things like a marketing deck and a movie trailer so we can all stop eating up to the green edges of our food and raise some real money to get this car on the road. But I must admit, despite the financial deprivation - PLEASE COME TO THE BENEFIT ON JULY 12 - we are all having the time of our lives working on something this creative and worthwhile. All we do is laugh, and all we do is feel better and better about what we're doing every time we look at the joy pouring out of Detroiters eyes, mouths and hearts as we pull everything together.

Exciting news on "The D" song front is that Detroit's own Maejor, an artist with hundreds of millions of YouTube views and the smoothest voice this Motor City side of Marvin Gaye, is the latest superstar to add his voice to the record.

Allee Willis

Plus recent interviews for Allee Willis Loves Detroit, the film, include the multi-seriesed Michael Patrick King, the shy and retiring Jenifer Lewis, the demure Sandra Bernhard, and Earth, Wind & Fire's stupendous Philip Bailey, among illustrious others.

Allee Willis

Onward, Detroit! And remember to gimme some gas money on July 12 or pop it down here if you're in generous spirit and unable to attend.

Allee

DONATE: http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk





April 1, 2015



I know, I know... It's been pathetically long since my last update. That might be because of the 20-hour-days-minimum-six-days-a-week schedule those of us working on the Detroit record, video, and film have been adhering to, handstitching everything together as if we were Betsy Ross making that flag. There have been great, jubilant days…

Allee Willis
…as well as days that make you want to roll onto the freeway and pray an 18 wheeler puts you out of your misery....

Allee Willis
But that's the life of an independent 99%-self funded artist and I wouldn't change anything for the world. Well, I WOULD love someone to dunk me into a big ol' vat of Lincolns...

Allee Willis
Old photo I know… If you can't tell by the lack of wrinkles on my face you can certainly tell by it being the last time I ever wore a dress. But aside from that I leave each day totally uplifted by the spirit pouring out of the footage and sounds leaping off the record. Wish I could leak a teeeeeny tiny sample but let's just say that no other city has had a song that sounded so insanely jubilant and looked quite so unique.

Allee Willis
I don't wanna let too much cat outta the bag until we premiere the record and video in Detroit this SEPTEMBER. Now that the year-long jotting down of logs has ended the video's about 60% finished. In the meantime we've also begun interviewing some of my esteemed friends and colleagues for Allee Willis Loves Detroit, the film. The bounty includes this young Detroiter:

Allee Willis
...and this young man who gave me my big break by having me write for his group, Earth, Wind & Fire:

Allee Willis
The celeb list in the film is long because people have a lot to say about Detroit (and apparently me). This includes many Color Purple people and a stunning array of Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Academy Award, and Pulitzer Prize winners, a smattering of whom we've filmed so far including RuPaul, Ricki Lake, Bruce Vilanch, Lesley Ann Warren, Marsha Norman, and Luenell with a whole slew yet to come.

Allee Willis
Not to say that the finish line of the feature film is in sight but we are crawling towards it with skinned knees, blisters on our fingers and faith in our hearts!

Allee Willis
As for "The D", the record is about 95% done. Just in need of us moving out of my home studio – not to berate my little studio which back in the day James Brown called one of the best and funkiest sounding in LA - but so we have a shot at mixing in more opportune acoustic conditions so the 40 basses, 35 guitars and over 5000 singers don't make everything too wobbly sounding as they bounce off the heads of Sammy Davis Jr., Groove On Brother, and other soulful onlookers here at Willis Wonderland.

Allee Willis
We've also been putting together a marketing deck so we can raise real money to get "The D"/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit finally on the road. As all of us normally peer through artists' eyes we had no idea what we were doing here and this took some months of concentration not to mention putting any further record, video or documentary editing on hold.

Allee Willis
If you know of any deep pocket persons or company/institutions that should see our lovely and provocative marketing deck please let me know. And to drop a few coins of your own in the tank you can always go here.

In the meantime, go on wit yo bad self, Detroit!

Allee Willis
Yours in/for The D,
Allee

DONATE: http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk





September 30, 2014



For the past few few years now on the "BaDeYa, say do you remember 21st night of September", my blessed and magic day because it's the first line in the first hit record I ever had, I've made a tradition of performing live, something that took me over three decades to get together. Other than last year when I was in Detroit conducting one of the 50 sing-alongs for "The D", the official unofficial theme song I cowrote for Detroit, in a laundromat with people essentially spinning around in dryers while singing.

Andrae and Allee Willis
As luck would have it, THIS year was a particularly special September 21st as just a couple days earlier NPR did a story on why "September", co-written with Maurice White and Al McKay, remains such a timeless song, symbolizing warmth, love, and soul.

D Peeps in Round
This year September 21 was even more special because I decided to perform live for the very first time EVER in Detroit, my beloved hometown for whom I've (unofficially) been slaving away on a project, "The D", a record and multiple music videos, and Allee Willis Loves Detroit, a feature length film, for the last 2 1/2 years. As such, my co-writer and partner on the music portion of the project, Andrae Alexander, and I put together a 15 piece band made up of the very best musicians and singers we found during the 50 D sing-alongs we led last year to perform live with us in the show, BaDeYa, Detroit!.

D Collage
We also wanted to give everyone a preview of the song which finally has a preliminary mix after over a solid year of trying to deal with 5000 vocal and instrument tracks, each one with up to hundreds of voices on them. There's just so much room in the sound spectrum and every inch of it we have taken up truly sounds like something you have never heard before. We also gave the audience a sneak peak at the beginnings of the first of many music videos to follow. (Sorry - no preview here; only a few shots so you can see it ain't no normal thang and to insure that you get the full punch once the first video's actually delivered.)

Allee With Servers
Detroit

Detroit
Detroit


For an artist such as myself who dotes on every detail of a stage production from designing the invitations to handmaking the set, picking theme food, designing the merchandise, casting people who help us like I'm casting characters in a musical, shipping 20 crates of everything to Detroit, directing, co-producing, and doing just about everything else involved in a production - albeit all with fantastic collaborators - this was no easy feat. And performing out of town for essentially the first time in my adult life makes that even harder. But don't even ask me how worth it it was!!! Easily one of the best days/nights of my life was this "21st (almost) night of September"!

Detroit
We performed at United Sound, a still-in-existence historic recording studio in Detroit where everyone from Charlie Parker to The Rolling Stones and some of my all-time favorite records like Isaac Hayes' "Shaft", The Dramatics' "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", and Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" were recorded.

Allee and Luenell

But to turn a brilliant recording studio into a brilliant performance space is another issue entirely, especially when it involves things like sets, choreographed videographers who leap over drums on crash cymbal cues and organ sweeps, and all the other madness that goes into an Allee Willis production.

Of this now 2 1/2 year Detroit gargantuan mofo project, "The D" and Allee Willis Willis Loves Detroit, the feature-length film about human spirit as seen through the people of Detroit and how my life, a constant conscious battle to keep my own spirit going, parallels that struggle, 99% of it has been funded by me. (Put some gas money here please.) So this meant getting people involved in BaDeYa, Detroit! working for gratis. Which they thankfully, gratefully, and miraculously did. From the band to just about everyone else who worked in any capacity on the show. They are saints. They are insanely talented. They are blissfully soulful, and primary examples of why I feel so compelled to make a film about the people of Detroit and how it is THEY who will rebuild the city because of their resilient spirit.



Allee Willis Graduation from Mumford
I want to give a special shout out to Malcolm Haris and Donnevan Tolbert, two young gentleman I saw play Mister and Harpo when their high school, Cass Tech, became the first in the country to license the musical I cowrote, The Color Purple, a couple years ago, and who did a brilliant spoken word intro to my show.

Allee Willis

And I want to thank the five brilliant dancers from The Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, one of the two beneficiaries of all profits from my Detroit efforts, who donned mechanics uniforms and spun car tires over their heads during the sneak peak world premiere of the first mix of "The D" and boogied their butts off during my second hit, "Boogie Wonderland".

Allee Willis

Allee Willis

I want to also thank the stupendous audience not only for showing up, as songwriters remain the buried treasure of the music industry, but also for participating so wildly so that the show came off just as I had prayed it would. Like a party in my living room. And if you don't know my reputation for throwing parties you better go here now.

Allee Willis

As a result of having so much fun not to mention hitting a new plateau in my budding performing career, I love Detroit even more than I have kvelled about it before, as if that was even possible. And I will eternally love the 21st of September for doing everything from giving me a second birthday because every year since I wrote it I hear from thousands of people that day telling me how happy the song makes them feel. This year it made me the happiest of all.

Allee Willis

I hope you can see the spirit that was jumping off of the stage and ricocheting back to us in all the above photos. That room was an automatic power generator and from what I've heard everyone, certainly including me, is still buzzing. So BaDeYa Detroit!

Allee Willis





July 15, 2014



Allee Willis and "The D" update: Computer Hell/Detroit Heaven!

I know. It's been pathetically long since my last update. This is not due to inactivity! We've been having 12 hour days here at Willis Wonderland since January and STILL haven't quite gotten through all the footage and recording tracks, close to 3000 hours and 5000 tracks respectively, for "The D" record and multiple music videos, and Allee Willis Loves Detroit our feature-length hybrid documentary. Not that this has been driving us crazy or to drink.

Andrae and Allee Willis
There are a lot of D deputies in the way of engineers, editors, and assorted characters here every day:

D Peeps in Round
I know it might seem like we do a lot of lying around but this rarely occurs unless eyeballs start rolling in the back of our heads after working 16 straight hours looking at 743 takes of various groups singing the same line. Two of these folks in the above photo are gone already. We hate to lose them, well one of them at least, but when one is paying such a high salary, as close to zero dollars as humanly possible due to our expansive budget known as my pocket, these things are inevitable.

D Collage
Challenges have abounded. Like having to replace my hundred terabyte server in the middle of editing and mixing so that master files are scattered around on a trillion different drives and computers as opposed to one central location while the switchover happens. So this includes helpful things like servers constantly going down or computers not being able to talk to each other, watching files getting eaten up before your eyes, overwriting files, and all the other joys that come with working in a part-time dysfunctional digital environment.

Allee With Servers
And then there was the hideous discovery that due to brain slippage of a certain IT person (no longer) working here nothing had been backed up since February and we lost at least a month's worth of footage of us figuring out how to jam thousands of voices and instruments into one record so everyone's heard. Not to mention the fits of hysteria incurred after looking at blurry key footage and figuring out how to work around it. This had me in a such a comatose state I had to shoot Vernor's, Detroit's beverage of choice, into my veins to keep me from slipping into a coma.

Allee with Soda
But the trauma has always been tamed by the joy of working on such a unique project. Sometimes we have even have FRIENDS drop in to bring us matzoh ball soup, cupcakes, and other modes of sustenance to remind us we have a life on the outside.

Allee and Luenell
And now traveling for "The D" crew kicks up again. I will be spending one week out of each of the next four months in the Motor City, this month to attend my 107th high school reunion!

Allee Willis Graduation from Mumford
Then I return two weeks later in August to give a speech on Creativity And Detroit at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, four hours from the city and where my parents bought their very first first house. Then I'm elated to report that on September 21 (yes, the "BaDeYa, say do you remember" 21st of September!) I will be performing LIVE in Detroit at the historic United Sound, the recording studio where the very first Motown records were made and still a vital part of Detroit music history. And then again at the end of October when the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, comes back to the D for the fourth time, this time starring Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday, who I wrote for many a year ago and haven't seen since, making for a Dream D reunion! All these extravaganzas will be filmed and recorded for "The D" and Allee Willis Loves Detroit.

So as we cut and paste, chop, mix, curse, cry, hug and exhibit all the various kinds of behavior that come with undertaking a task of this girth I thank all of you who have donated or contributed your services thus far. It's not too late to donate!! We will do you proud!

Yours in The D,
Allee


The D/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit home: http://www.WeSingTheD.com
Sneak Peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rkbTpZdxy8
WDIV/ NBC Allee Willis Does Detroit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8HdLEfw1zg
Fox 2 News: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9361767




April 20, 2014



Greetings from your faithful, weary yet ecstatic, ever-editing Detroit and life-in-general cheerleader!

Calling (well, emailing) all you Angelinos + anyone else descending upon the (warm, sunny) LA city limits on the beautiful Sunday evening of May 4 to come to the famed UnCabaret for A SNAZZY BENEFIT SHINDIG for ALLEE WILLIS'S "THE D"!!

Featuring stories and sing-alongs to some of my l'il hits like "September," "Boogie Wonderland," "Neutron Dance," "I'll Be There for You (the Friends theme)", "What Have I Done To Deserve This?," "Stir It Up," "Lead Me On," and the karate chopping "You're The Best". Plus a "DBay" thrift shop auction and wayyyyy way more!! Not to mention a chance to join the thousands of uplifted folks already on "The D", a record, video and feature length film about human spirit as exemplified by the people of Detroit, which this special one-night-only performance benefits.

If you don't fully comprehend what the "THE D" is click HERE for a SNEAK PEEK.

If you need further proof that this is the real-deal-big-time thang check out what ran on WDIV/ NBC last week.

If you question whether you'll enjoy the music, 60,000,000 records and counting should tell you something.

If you aren't sure you'll spend an incredibly unique evening having a BALL, check out what People Magazine said of my soirees: "She throws parties that are works of art in themselves... the campiest hot tickets in LA."

All profits from "The D" go to two Detroit artistic crown jewels, The Heidelberg Project and Mosaic Youth Theatre Of Detroit.

Seating is very limited so get your tickets - so reasonably priced at $20 and $30 it's insane! - HERE. (http://uncabaret.laughstub.com/show.cfm?id=313501&cart) And if you want to go home with some of Allee's prized kitsch collection you might want to have a little cash on hand too. And if you can't come, please DONATE HERE.

Detroit and I hope to see you Sunday night, May 4, at 8 PM. Doors open at 7:30.
Allee

Allee Willis




January 28, 2014



Finally!! Get out the ol' YouTube and enjoy this sneak peek at "The D"! (This is NOT the music video or film; just a sneak peek at what you can expect!) You can play this now or read a little more as I will kindly provide you with the link 30,000 times before the end of this update.

Allee Willis

As we speak, I'm in my studio rolling my chair from one workstation to another as we simultaneously mix the 4000 vocal and instrument tracks for the record, and edit the 2000+ hours of footage into a music video, assorted trailers and a hybrid–documentary–but–not–really feature film. Normal life has ceased and no matter what other needs may need attending, work never stops!

Allee Willis

In the nearly 2 years since I began working on "The D" there were times I was just inches away from pulling the plug because the financial and practical odds of getting thousands of Detroiters to sing a song and be in a film about human spirit on no budget just seemed too enormous. But make it to Detroit we did, in September - a magic month for me for obvious musical reasons - and again at Thanksgiving when I was such an exemplary float personality greeting the crowds as a block of ice being hauled down Woodward Ave., Detroit's main drag and first paved road in history, in the Thanksgiving Day Parade:



Allee Willis

As usual, massive thanks and eternal gratitude to those of you who have already donated or participated in the making of "The D". Now that everyone else can finally get a hint of what we're doing I hope many of you reading this will follow suit and help us finish by adding some gas in the tank.



If you like what you see please please please spread the link to this "D" sneak peek around: http://youtu.be/4rkbTpZdxy8
If you want to donate go here: http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk
For complete info on "The D" go here: http://www.wesingthed.com
And If you know some nice rich person or place with excellent taste and a whole lotta soul who might make this next part of our journey a little easier in the way of coin, please email me immediately!

I can guarantee you "The D" is a view of Detroit you've never seen before. I can guarantee you it's an accurate one. And I can promise you it will make you smile. When it comes to soul - SERIOUSLY - there ain't no place like the Motor City!



Allee Willis

My "D" best,
And, by the way, have you seen this excellent sneak peek of "The D"?

Allee






December 15, 2013



I'm back from Detroit where I got to ride on the Wizard of Oz float in the televised Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade! TOTAL BLAST other than I had to get up at 5 AM when I'm usually just climbing into bed, and it was snowing and FREEZING and I'm the type who squirms when it dips below 70. So although I had on a perfectly Wizard-themed yellow brick road suit, most of the time down the 3 1/2 mile parade route I looked like this:

Allee Willis

Only when we reached the "televised zone" did my frozen appendages manage to stand up:

Allee Willis

By the time I even reached the float my limbs were already blocks of ice after conducting 150 Michigan Pom-Pom Girls doing "The D" at the start of the parade. Though I'm missing in this photo it's a very nice shot of Ruben Studdard's head as he ignores our performance:

Allee Willis

Speaking of ignoring performances, here I am as Rodriquez warmed up inside with my crew:

Allee Willis

Post Pom Pom conducting I was whisked away in a golf cart, whipping through marching Christmas fairies and Santa Clauses at 30 mph with no windshield for a 3 mile arctic ride down Woodward Ave. to catch up with the float I was to ride atop. As I mentioned in my last update, I've never even seen the Wizard of Oz. The munchkiny repetitiveness of that "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" refrain always drove me nuts. But as soon as my foot, now resembling a frozen steak, set down on the float "Ding Dong" started blasting and I realized I would have to listen to it 600 times by the time we reached the end of the parade route. Had the witch not already died in the song I would've killed her myself. Despite this, it was the thrill of a lifetime and thank you so much WDIV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit, for placing me on the yellow brick road. (And for having the foresight to do a half hour special on the making of "The D"!).

Along with my stupendous crew we also recorded and filmed more sing-alongs of "The D" while in the Motor City. These included singing animals,...

Allee Willis

...a plethora of bass and guitar players playing the same part at the exact same time, blasting out a thunderous, fat, obese bottom under a funktified chicken scratch rhythm wonderland,...

Allee Willis

...roller skating champs in the form of Detroit Derby Girls,…

Allee Willis

... hardware enthusiasts,...

Allee Willis

... and another Hardcore Pawn point thrown in for good measure.

Allee Willis

Thank you to Busy Bee Hardware, American Jewelry & Loan, United Sound, Detroit Bass Players, Metro Detroit Area Guitar Players, Maxie Ford, All About Animals Rescue, Detroit Derby Girls and the Masonic Temple for your dulcet tones and incredible support of the D and "The D". To see photos from all the locations and Detroit superstars we shot go here.

Oh, and stumbling on this as I roamed the streets of Detroit wasn't bad either:

Allee Willis

Now the editing begins! Donations please if you'd like to hop in the car and help me drive toward the finish line.


Big D love with lots more to come,
Allee



November 24, 2013



I'm donning my ruby red slippers and jetting to Detroit to ride high atop the NBC-WDIV Wizard of Oz float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade (!!!) and to do 10 more sing-alongs for "The D".

If you haven't seen photos from the last 40, yes FOURTY, sing-alongs we did in Detroit in September, capturing thousands and thousands of people singing and cavorting on "The D", check out these beautiful people NOW!

This time we're going back and filming everyone from hundreds of Motown-born bass and guitar players - all playing at once for one THUNDEROUS "D" sound! - to Roller Derby skaters, bakers, rabbis, pom pom girls, carpenters and canines– yes, they sing too! Here, in fact, is a Miniature Pinscher soloing with me at one of the September sing-alongs:

Allee Willis


If you happen to be in Detroit this Saturday, the 30th, please join us at an open-to-the-public sing-along at 11 AM with the All About Animals Rescue at Bob Maxie Ford, 1833 Jefferson Ave. and you can sing along with the dogs too!

So please wish me, my 12 person crew, 7 video cameras, 11 still cameras, 1 helicopter camera, 8 suitcases I'm taking for a 6 day shoot, 11 scarves and 13 beanies I'm packing in my sparkly ruby red carry-on so I don't die of hypothermia on the float good luck as we STOMP UP THE SPIRIT in the Motor City once again!

By the way, the irony of me riding on the Wizard of Oz float has not escaped me or anyone who knows me well. I am the ONLY person in the WORLD who has never seen the movie.

Last but certainly not least, as "The D" has grown into something far more MASSIVE than I ever dreamed, your DONATIONS would be most appreciated. This is a song/record/music video/feature-length documentary about the triumph of human spirit as exhibited by the people of Detroit who never stop smiling, never look back, and who aren't waiting for the government or any bankruptcy crap to reimagine their city. The sheer chutzpah, imagination, and belief of self there is truly INSPIRATIONAL. It's a story for everyone, not just Detroit.

My D best,
Allee





October 07, 2013



Got back to LA from leg #1 of "The D", my song/video/documentary tribute to the SOUL of Detroit, last week sick as a dog, happy as a clam, and just now rising from the dead to finally write this update. After a year and a half of ups and downs including times I didn't even know if we were going to make it to Detroit I can honestly say these were among the all-time greatest three weeks of my life! And an exceedingly auspicious debut for "The D".

Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Choir:
Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Choir

First off, I was blessed with the single best team I have ever worked with. Everyone - from my collaborator, Andrae Alexander, to Director Danny Franzese and Producer Jason Yamas, through the camera and sound crews, interns, assistants, volunteers, et al - was talented, bright, diligent, generous, funny, and fun, and I can't wait until we all work together again. Which, if our progress in Detroit is any indication, will be VERY soon.

Empire Boxing Gym:
Empire Boxing Gym

I created "The D" because I love Detroit and every time I go back I meet more and more incredible people who believe in the city and are doing incredibly positive things to reimagine it.

The Greening Of Detroit:
The Greening Of Detroit

But if I loved Detroiters for their spirit and resiliency before this trip it's nothing compared to the love affair I have with them now. At location after location we were greeted with the biggest smiles and enthusiasm that one could ever hope to experience.

The Fisher Theatre:
The Fisher Theatre

Detroiters' love for their city is palpable, infectious and ever-growing.

Mosaic Youth Theatre:
Mosaic Youth Theatre

Detroit is beautiful. Really, you have to drive deep around to find all the rubble that the media and most documentaries done about Detroit constantly exploit. I can't even tell you the joy we all felt at every single location as people swelled with pride singing and performing "The D". You can experience some of their comments here.

The Heidelberg Project:
The Heidelberg Project

Now that we're back, "The D" adventure shifts into second gear. Starting today, Andrae and I begin going through the literally thousands of tracks of music in LA while Jason leads a New York crew going through the over 700 hours of footage.

Pasteur elementary school:
Pasteur elementary school

In addition, the crew will be most likely be reuniting in several different cities to film and record more prominent Detroiters. We will also most likely be returning to Detroit very soon to do something very big that I'm dying to announce here but it's not 100% yet so that will just have to wait for the next update.

College For Creative Studies:
College For Creative Studies

I'm also in the midst of building photo pages for each location we shot at. These will all hopefully be up online within a couple of weeks so I will have that link in the next update I send you.

African Bead Museum:
African Bead Museum

Thanks to all of you again who so generously donated, volunteered, or participated in "The D". And a massive shout-out again to The Detroit Historical Society for its immeasurable and continuing help and for giving this scrapyard daughter a permanent and immortal home in the cement!

Detroit Historical Society:
Detroit Historical Society

Detroit Historical Society

"The D" was blessed with great news coverage while we were there. You can see the spirit I'm talking about in the following stories. Here's a piece that ran on NBC News and here's one that ran on Fox. NBC is also preparing a half hour special on "The D".

My very best,
Onward Detroit!
Allee



September 20, 2013



I really meant to be sending out far more of these updates but the schedule is thankfully and gratefully so packed here in Detroit that I can barely get into bed before it's time to get up and start singing again. The participation here has been insanely enthusiastic and wonderful. Here's are photos from some of the sing-alongs we've done so far. Will send more in a few days. We've also been blessed with a lot of press including this piece that ran on NBC News here last night in Detroit last night.

If you're in Detroit or know any Detroiters who are here there are two open to the public sing-alongs. The first is this Sunday at 3 PM in front of the House of Soul at the Heidelberg Project. The second is September 25 at 3 PM at the Detroit Historical Society. All are welcome though you are encouraged to learn the song before you come. http://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/

Some of the soul sightings as people break it out for "The D":

Mumford High School:
Mumford High School

My graduating class at Mumford High School:
My graduating class at Mumford High School

Detroit Dog Rescue:
Detroit Dog Rescue

American Jewelry & Loan (Hard Core Pawn):
American Jewelry & Loan

Motown! (with Paul Riser, Funk Brother and arranger extraordinaire, Paul Riser Jr., the original Motown engineers who literally built the studio, and the family of legendary Motown bass player, James Jamerson): Motown!

Martha Reeves:
Martha Reeves

The Deep River Y:
The Deep River Y

Henry The Hatter:
Henry The Hatter

Detroit Yacht Club:
Detroit Yacht Club

Consumer Auto Parts:
Consumer Auto Parts

Schulze Academy (my elementary school):
Schulze Academy

Ebenezer Baptist Church:
Ebenezer Baptist Church

Onward!
Allee





September 6, 2013



Hard to believe that after working on "The D" a solid year and a half, my ever-growing crew of 15 and I are descending upon Detroit in less than a week to record the song, video and feature length documentary. We'll be recording and filming groups of 50 to 1000 people at each of 40+ locations where people will be singing "The D", dancing, and showing their Motor City spirit however they can. Nothing like this has ever seen attempted- not just the largest number of people ever on a record, but the largest number of people as the original artist on a record. A partial list of locations participating is at the end of this email.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been recording incredible Detroit born singers, songwriters, musicians, comedians, and actors here at my studio in LA – groundbreaking Motown songwriters and producers like Lamont Dozier and Mickey Stevenson, former Supremes Mary Wilson and Scherrie Payne, singers Freda Payne, Marcella Detroit, Pam and Joyce Vincent, Diane Steinberg, daughter of legendary Detroit DJ Martha Jean The Queen, comedians Lily Tomlin and Angela Shelton, and musicians like Greg Phillinganes, Ray Parker Jr., Reggie McBride and Bruce Miller - with a lot more to come. Here's some of the action in my studio over the past week:

Mary Wilson:

Allee Willis


Lamont Dozier:

Allee Willis


Lily Tomlin:

Allee Willis


Massive thanks again to all of you who donated moolah to make this truly historic song, video, documentary and collaboration with the people of Detroit possible. As the scale of this project involves tens of thousands of people and a 20 day/ 40+ location shoot, not to mention postproduction and all else involved in finishing the project we are still actively seeking funding. I've started another online fundraising campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk. I haven't made a big deal about this one. It's just there for generous souls who want to be part of something truly inspirational. We are also seeking larger donor sponsors and/or angels. You can email me back with any inquiries about that.

Thanks to the following locations where we'll be filming and recording "The D". Two of the sing-alongs at The Heidelberg Project, Friday, September 13th 10:30am and Saturday, September 21st at 3pm are, open to the public. A schedule will soon be published at http://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/.

The Detroit Historical Society and Museum
The Dossin Maritime Museum on Belle isle
Detroit Yacht Club
D-Hive
Mumford High School
Pasteur Elementary School
Schulze Elementary School
Martin Luther King High School and marching band
Wayne State University
College For Creative Studies
Eastern Market
Temple Israel
Academy of Rock
Rock Ventures/ Opportunity Detroit
Radio One
The Heidelberg Project
Mosaic Youth Theatre
The Whitney
The Fisher Building
Greg's Soul In The Wall restaurant
Consumer Auto Parts
American Jewelry & Loan (Hard Core Pawn)
U Detroit/ Harmonie Park
Henry The Hatter
Lafayette Laundry
African Bead Museum
Lululemon at Eastern Market - largest yoga class ever in Detroit - 500 people
Michigan Opera Theatre
The Ford Piquette Ave. Plant
Campus Martius Park
The Alley project (TAP)
Detroit Synergy - biking event
Historic St. James Baptist Church
The Greening Of Detroit
Detroit Dog Rescue/ HUSH
Church of the Messiah
Deep River Y Choir/ Comerica Park
Russell Industrial Center
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Michigan State University Community Music School
Woodbridge Housing Complex
Now just about all that's left is to board the plane to Detroit!!


Onward!

Allee





July 28, 2013



The wheels have begun to roll really fast now that we are only 5+ weeks out from going to Detroit to record and film "The D"!

First, an incredible array of fantastic locations in Detroit have signed on to let us record and film there. They go from iconic outdoor locations both on land and water to inside museums, restaurants, schools, churches, synagogs, laundromats, car washes, radio stations, pawn shops, hat shops, hotels, recording studios, yoga studios, weave salons, and more. From the largest business enterprise in the city to the smallest hole-in-the-wall restaurant "The D" is representing the most vibrant spots and folks in the city. Not to mention a slew of famous singers and musicians who hail from the Motor City and will be coming to my studio in LA to participate.

I arrive in Detroit with a 12 person crew on September 9. We will be there through the end of the month in order to have enough material for the song, video and documentary. Most of us live in Los Angeles and New York and share a deep love of and belief in Detroit. We will also be picking up many local crew members, interns and volunteers once we're there.

I was in Detroit earlier this month hosting two fundraisers generously thrown for us by two amazing restaurants, The Whitney, and Vinsetta Garage. The Whitney was a 150 person event featuring sing-alongs and a great live 60s/70s funk band whereas the dinner at Vinsetta was a higher ticket, more intimate evening of just 25 people and about four hours of constant (incredible and mind blowing) food. I was most excited when Mary Wilson of the original Supremes walked into that one!

My third night in Detroit was spent at the Detroit Historical Museum where my portrait and some personal artifacts were on display as part of an exhibit featuring 50 iconic Detroiters in Jenny Risher's beautiful Heart Soul Detroit book. A truly incredible moment for me, whose only music education was worshiping Motown, was when I walked in to see myself featured as part of the Motown section of the exhibit. Here I am with Martha Reeves (Martha & The Vandellas), Mary Wilson (The Supremes) and Miss Maxene Powell, the Motown etiquette coach who gave the groups all their signature poise and grace.



Allee Wilis



I want to especially thank the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Historical Society for the great interest and support they have shown to "The D" ever since this most wonderful evening.

At the end of this coming week, I'm hosting a week-long production confab at my house in LA where the director, producer and other principals will be flying in to plan the actual production schedule and figure out the logistics of such an ambitious project. We are incredibly well organized for something of this scale on the somewhat limited budget we have (and why the search for funding will continue until the very last frame of the documentary is cut). Every single person on the team now is beyond enthusiastic and ready to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to get this done, my personality MO since the beginning of my career. I can't tell you how great and inspiring it is to work inside of an energy force like this and I hope as "The D" is realized and these updates get more consistent that that energy will uplift you as well. Once again, I want to thank everyone who so astutely and boldly donated to "The D". I also want to thank people receiving this because you've signed up to participate as well as those who came to the parties at The Whitney and Vinsetta Garage. It's that spirit that has kept Detroit going through the decades of glut and gluttony and it's certainly the primary force in re-imagining the city now.

For more information on "The D" go here.
To learn the actual song go here.
For more of Allee's Detroit go here.



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