.

So 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:

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.

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.

The Fisher Theatre:

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”.

Onward Detroit!
https://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/

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”:

Mumford High School:

My graduating class at Mumford High School:

Detroit Dog Rescue

American Jewelry & Loan (Hard Core Pawn):

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):

Martha Reeves:

The Deep River Y:

Henry The Hatter:

Detroit Yacht Club:

Consumer Auto Parts:

Schulze Academy (my elementary school)

Ebenezer Baptist Church:

Onward!

Allee

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, Paul Riser 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:

Lamont Dozier:

Lily Tomlin:

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”. One of the sing-alongs at The Heidelberg Project, Saturday, September 21st at 3pm is open to the public.  A schedule will soon be published at https://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
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

 

 

This is an update to all those who have donated or signed up to participate in “The D”, my multimedia song-video-documentary extravaganza I’m recording and filming via a series of sing-alongs in Detroit from 9/10 – 10/1, 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, synagogues, 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.

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. (https://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/)

To DONATE go here: http://www.gofundme.com/3btivk

To learn the actual song go here. (https://www.alleewillis.com/WeSingTheD/sing-or-play-the-d.php)

For more of Allee’s Detroit go here. (https://www.alleewillis.com/detroit/)

 

 

It’s no secret to anyone within miles of  my mouth that constantly babbles on about it that I love my hometown of Detroit, the city that gets more bad raps than an unpopular war, deadly criminals, and oil spills put together. If one had unprejudiced EYEballs to look through they would see the same beautiful and spirited city that I see, the one whose people – perhaps not those who fled to the lighter color suburbs  –  still believe in and wake up with the soul that Motown pumped into their veins still cursing through their bodies to make things better. Some of that stuff musta stuck personally to me as I seem to have become in my old age the cheerleader I always wanted to become in my young age, though now for the whole city as opposed to just the Mumford Mustangs, whose colors I bore at my graduation oh so many years ago.

As most of you reading this know I’m heading back to Detroit the entire month of September, a month I helped popularize in song!,  to conduct daily sing-alongs in order to record, “The D”,  the new theme song for the new Detroit I wrote with Andrae Alexander and to simultaneously film near round-the-clock in order to make multitudinous videos and an accompanying D documentary.

Raising money to do this, or for anything in my career, has been my least favorite part of being an artist. I hate dealing with money. That’s not why I make art/music/videos/web worlds/etc. It’s antithetical to this pure artists’ brain and being to ask for money. But as an artist who 90% of the time has funded themselves, and as a songwriter who has watched my own and others’ work get essentially cast into the public domain, operating under the digital assumption that songwriters no longer deserve compensation, unless there’s some gold or green in the bank ain’t no nothin gon happen no mo.

So I launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money for “The D”. But I’ve been pretty shy about confronting the bane of my career – asking people for money so I can put some gas in The D tank and actually pull off what most artists would want 1,000,000+ clams to do – spend a month getting every single person in Detroit who wants to be on the record or perform in the video/film to do exactly that. And I’m prepared to do it with scotch tape and string, the usual way I’ve have to execute my career, walking the money gutted path of pennies, stripping down the grand vision that I see in my head to the thinner version my pocketbook can afford. The good news about this is that without those limitations I doubt I ever would have stumbled onto the KITSCH style I’m known for in all areas of my art –  other than my music, which remains on its Grammy high. And for this I thank those who have been either too cheap or ball-less or working at entertainment conglomerates to support me just to sit back and watch from behind the fence while I hit the home runs for those who HAVE pulled their checkbooks out.

All of this rambling to say, THIS WEEK ONLY, if you donate at least $15 to “The D” you’ll automatically be entered into the raffle to win one of an excessively limited edition of personally-autographed-by-me “Keep Your EYE on Detroit!” dashboard EYEballs in addition to all the other perks associated with the amount you contribute! Thank you, Archie McPhee, for the generous donation of these ocular wigglers.

This nifty EYEball shaker will not only liven up your car dashboard but will be a constant bouncing reminder that you’ve put your money where the underdog is and be a part of calling attention to a true American city that’s reinventing itself very much in the spirit that the United States itself was created. Forge into new territory and do it for yourself. Detroiters have no government to rely on, hell even the mayor quit, so people there are just rolling up their sleeves and executing ideas that they wouldn’t have the balls to even think of let alone build in other cities.

I’ve long said that the times that I’ve been perceived as hot in my career aren’t actually when I’m hot. It’s in the valleys when you think nothing is happening and no one’s paying attention to you because  they think you’re over when you do the work that shoots you to the top of the mountain in your so-called “hot” periods. That’s what it’s like in Detroit now, the Wild (mid)West, the city that slid first and watched all the others fall in their arrogance of “that couldn’t happen here”, and the first city to embrace, at least from the inside, that radical change isn’t re-building, it’s re-imagining and re-inventing.

You can feast your real EYEballs here where I’ve just posted gaggles of photos from my trip to Detroit in April. Then try to get your real plastic EYEball here by helping me pull off this insanely massive project I have in my head to do in Detroit this September. If one just keeps their EYEs pointed toward the ground and walks the same path one’s always walked you get the same life you’ve always had. But if one keeps their EYE on Detroit, you’ll see the path changing, leading to a very bright light in the future. Please be among those who help me shine that light! http://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD EYE will appreciate it forever!

YOU + (at least) $15 = Making Allee very happy.

Full deets on da D: http://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD

 

Just got back from an amazing trip to Detroit where I was laying the groundwork for the big project I’m coming back in September to do there and the project for which I’ve just launched a fund-raising campaign in order to pull off.  Below are are a couple of great stories that came out about my exploits. Please, please, PLEASE pass the link to the Indiegogo campaign for “The D” around so your fearless Kitsch leader can spread all the kitsch and glory around Detroit in September and pull off the greatest sing-along/theme song/video/documentary known to mankind!!! (That may be stretching to a bit but that’s what it feels like in my head!). http://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD

Here’s a great peice about “The D” by Karen Dybis, who I first spoke to a couple years ago when she was hired by Time Magazine to blog about Detroit for a full year. So she knows all about my passion for Detroit.

And here’s a great story (with slideshow and video) that ran on the news last week in Detroit:

Please help fund “The D”!!! And please spread this link around to anyone who you think might donate or help in any other way: http://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD.  Onward Detroit!!!

I wish I had time to write at length this morning because I can’t even tell you what a SPECTACULAR evening I had last night at my high school in Detroit, the greatest one of all, Mumford, about to be destroyed by the wrecking ball but still the most spirit-filled place in the city. Kids from the  choir, dance company and band performed some of my greatest hits while I told stories about how they were written. So many of my classmates showed up, some of whom I hadn’t seen since I graduated, some of my family, the ones who weren’t afraid to show some soul, leave the burbs and come into the real city, friends I’ve made on my last couple visits here and, of course, the wonderful and dedicated Mumford teachers, principal and former principal, and staff who helped so much to make this one of the favorite nights of my life.

I have to race out of the hotel seriously fast and check out a recording studio because I’m hell-bent and determined to collaborate with the entire city, at least any of those who want to be on a record, on a Detroit song that I’ve been working on back in LA with my upcoming live show bandleader, Andrae Alexander. Then race back to the hotel to change and get over to Cass Technical High School where the City Council will be presenting me with the Spirit of Detroit Award, and where I’ll also be attending another performance my musical, The Color Purple, all the while trying to edit the close to 600 photos taken last night, not to mention at least 10 hours of film from cameras we placed all over  the auditorium.

I hope to be blogging a lot about this next week once I’m back in LA so please check back then. Until then, I’m cheering for you, Mumford High! And Onward, Detroit!

You all know of my love for the physical structure of my classic Deco baby blue high school in Detroit, Mumford, as well as my dismay that the wrecking ball is hitting it mere months after the concert I’m doing/hosting there THIS Thursday night. One of the MANY reasons the school is near and dear to my heart is also because it was made famous in the film I won a GRAMMY for, Beverly Hills Cop, when Eddie Murphy wore a t-shirt bearing its name throughout the movie.

So it upsets me even more that features like this, all over the school, are about to be nothing more than a pile of crumbled limestone:

One place inside Mumford I loved like no other was the auditorium.  Here’s a photo of when I was there last year watching rehearsals for when I conducted the marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits. I was sitting in my favorite seat, Row A, first seat on the middle aisle.

Here was Row A, seat 1 yesterday as wrecking ball syndroome has already hit the school:

Here I am leaving the school:

At least there’s some small concilation for the crime of classic architecture demolition. Now if I could only get that clock!

Yesterday was a lonnnng day.  Detroit is only 4 hours away but it took 12+ to get there.  Thank you, American Airlines! I bitched about AA from 8 am. to midnight. The terminal at LAX SUCKS. Flights were delayed. That part was the weather’s fault, but everything else was on American Airlines.  Here are my tweets and facebook posts throughout the tortuous yet fun day as I was traveling with fellow aKitschionados Mark Blackwell and Laura Grover.  That’s Laura’s daughter, Esther Rose, who came to see us off.:

8 AM. Being driven to LAX by debonaire bulldog:

9:15 AM.: Heading east total pain in butt today, especially of you’re heading thru Dallas. Biggg delays.

9:50 AM.: How much do I HATE American Airlines?! 4 plugs today for 6 gates + 1 bar wifi. Idiots. Please go bankrupt.

9:59 AM: Why hasn’t someone made some $ putting plugs in at airports? Four plugs per 2000 peeps ain’t cuttin it, idiotic American Airlines.

10:15 AM.:Thanks for the sucky seating in your terminal American Airlines. No wifi, 4 plugs for 6 gates and a dirty floor to boot.

10:50 AM.: I gave American Airlines too much credit. One bar now gone. No service at gates. AA, it ain’t 1960. Get your tech & hospitality together!

12:40 PM.: How much do I hate American Airlines?? 4 plugs for SIX gates and no wiki, unless you call 1 bar and “searching” a network. And then there was NO air on the plane. Not until at least 50 passengers were on did it start spitting thru those little nozels. Out of most snacks. I’m on the plane as we speak and connecting in Dallas where all flights are delayed. Next time just strap wings on me.

1:37 PM.: Men, in what universe is it ok to travel in shorts and impose those pale hairy legs on your seatmate? Tommy Bahama shirt is bad enough.

2:45 PM.: What’s with pilots who can’t stop chatting? Pilot on American should do dinner theater and not ‘entertain’ passengers. Thank God we just landed.

3:10 PM.: FINNNNALLLY arrived in Dallas. All flights delayed. Have commandeered all available charging stations and all devices are getting nourished. Dallas American Airlines terminal nowhere near as Neanderthal as at LAX.

3:30 PM: Taking a little snooze between flights:

5:45 PM.: Sloppiest Big Mac maker is at Dallas Ft Worth McDonalds. She needs to staple those burgers together. Plus lettuce overload and no pickles.

7:50 PM.: Back on plane. Nothing like a good fitting jetway. Thanks American. I’d feel better taking a skateboard (The cement inbetween my foot and the metal is the ground 15 feet below):

9:30 PM.: Still 2 hours to go to Detroit. Now the problem isnt American- unless you count the fact that no stewardess has been around to pick up garbage for over an hour – It’s the person in back of me whose phone keys have those hideous sounds attached to them. He sounds like a bad video game from 1995 and is driving me NUTS. Headphones still dead.

11:13 PM: Finally arrived close to midnight.  All the red bags, five of em, are mine. Plus one my jacket’s hiding.

12:02 PM. Picked up the rental car.  It was the kind of blue that makes me vomit.  Literally.  I’m clinically allergic to bluescreen blue. Makes me ill as soon as I look at it.  Now we’re in a white van and I’m happy.

12:45 AM: Finally arrived at The Doubletree.

Very happy now.  I have a corner suite that’s bigger than my house!  Off we go to get BBQ at Slow’s…