OK, kids. Settle down. I’m speaking up against DONALD TRUMP using my song as his campaign song. Hope I’m not his next target. Please bear in mind only the publisher can prevent him from using “You’re The Best”. Ain’t no use telling me about Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Heart. They were all both artist, songwriter and publisher and therefore had the legal right to prevent usage. I’s jes the lowly songwriter and have no power here. Other than my mouth!
In case you haven’t read it, the title of this post is in reference to the if-I-do-say-so-myself-despite-a-few-tiny-inaccuracies-great-and-rather-large-piece-on-me in last Sunday’s Washington Post.
In current news, I will be taking to the stage in LA again for the first time in over a year, actually the first two times, as there are two impending opportunities for me to regale you with my most humiliating show business stories and watch the audience remember my lyrics better than I do as we sing-along to some of my greatest hits!
First, I will be performing my infamous poolside with Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor slab o’ ribs story as well as a retelling of the single most ego-numbing, dignity-deprivation moment of my career, the Phoebe Snow/Paul Simon “I’m so f%#king hungry and yes, you’re Still Crazy after all these hours” story at Beth Lapides’ I’m With The Band (sorry, Pamela DesBarres who HAS been with the band!) evening at the Skirball Center, Friday night, June 5. It’s rock & roll comedy told by very funny people like John Riggie (30 Rock, The Comeback), Greg Behrendt He’s Just Not That Into You), the lovely Moon Zappa (Curb Your Enthusiasm, America the Beautiful) and, of course, ME, featuring stories about some of music’s biggest legends and presented lounge-style with cocktails and snacks available for purchase. Tickets here.
Then 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 my Detroit-inspired record, video and feature length film about human spirit, “The D”/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit”!! 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.
And last but far from least, 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.
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.
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 filmhave been adhering to, handstitching everything together as if we were Betsy Ross making that flag. There have been great, jubilant days…
…as well as days that make you want to roll onto the freeway and pray an 18 wheeler puts you out of your misery….
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…
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.
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:
…and this young man who gave me my big break by having me write for his group, Earth, Wind & Fire:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
CALLING ALL DETROITERS! I will be APPEARING LIVE for the first time EVER in the Motor City 3 PM, Sunday, “the 21st (almost) night of September”! Andrae and I plus a 10 piece band – singers, dancers, tires, fire eaters, live tigers – well, a couple of those may not be true but I guarantee you it will be a spectacle among spectacles!
BaDeYa DETROIT features sing-alongs to my some of my greatest greatest hits like ’September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Neutron Dance”, the Friends theme, not to mention a not-ready-to-be-released-yet-but-needle-drop preview of “The D”! and is all happening at Detroit’s most historic recording studio – the immortal United Sound, 5840 2nd Ave., Detroit, MI 48202, Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 3 PM. Here’s the ticket link. Click NOW for maximum enjoyment as seating is very limited!
A couple of Allee Willis Live enticing quotes:
“Invitations to Allee Willis’s ultra-exclusive … parties are the campiest hot tickets in LA.” – People Magazine
The unpretentious and effortlessly hilarious Willis stood before her mic cracking jokes and spinning alternately hilarious and touching anecdotes… Billed as a “songwriter, live performer, visual artist, and iconic party thrower”,…the indefatigable and gifted Willis lives up to all of the hype, and more. Who else can one think of who created a marathon catalog of beloved chart-topping songs beginning in the late 1970s, wrote background score and songs for a 1980s movie blockbuster (“Beverly Hills Cop”) and “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme for the iconic long- running sitcom (“Friends”), and ultimately added to her incredibly eclectic repertoire in late career by co-writing a wondrous Broadway musical in 2005 (“The Color Purple”)?…Willis simultaneously projects counter-culture hipster and dearly beloved auntie. There’s plenty of warmth and refreshing humility mixed in with her thumb-your-nose attitude. – The Edge Media Network.
So please BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW for a magic carpet ride to Happy Land on the 21st day of September!!
Sorry, sorry, sorry for no new entries in an eternity. I’m working around several clocks and all the energy that used to be poured into this blog has to now go into slogging through the close to 5000 vocal tracks and 3000 hours of footage so that I can complete “The D”/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit before my 100th birthday. Although joyous work for a completely worthy cause – DETROIT! – it all makes me very tired, especially when the 100 Terrabye server goes down and makes my collaborator, Andrae Alexander, and I experience death by technology.
So I am putting a convenient little button to transport you to Facebook where I now say in relatively few characters what I used to put into my often novel-like blog. That way you can experience at least some of my day, though I am far from the type whose fingers are constantly tapping the keys to tell everyone what I’m up to.
I’ve been online since 1991. I came up with the concept of a social network in 1992. I’m not someone who blogs because you have to blog or tweets because you have to tweet or puts incessant photos of my food and footwear on Instagram. I have always lived by the rule that my creative flow was a little garden that I had to nurture. So please enjoy the flowers at the above link and I shall be back to blog when time, the gods and my overstuffed brain allow it.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
My “D” best,
And, by the way, have you seen this excellent sneak peek of “The D”?
Xploding virally as we speak…
I’m also joining Shyboy at Hotel Café in LA on Jan. 31 where we’ll be singing a spectacularly slow, a la this Friends treatment, version of my song “Neutron Dance”. This must be the month for people deconstructing and reconceptualizing my songs. And to this I can only say, “More More More” (which I didn’t write).
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:
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:
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:
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.
Detroiters’ love for their city is palpable, infectious and ever-growing.
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:
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:
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:
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.
African Bead Museum:
Thanks to all of you again who so generously donated, volunteered, or participated in “The D”. Donations still happily accepted here. 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 cement!
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”.
I really meant to be doing 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.
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. You can get it here: https://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/
Here’s some photos from some of the sing-alongs we’ve done so far for “The D”:
My graduating class at Mumford High School:
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):
Ebenezer Baptist Church: