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/)

 

 

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As I sit here with LESS THAN FOUR DAYS LEFT for this fundraising campaign for “The D”,  I can’t help but think about all the amazing things that have come out of it so far and how great it’s going to be when I go back to Detroit to do my passion project of recording the official unofficial theme song of the city with thousands of Detroiters throughout the month of  “September”.
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The outpouring of love and support from hundreds of you so far lets me know how many of my friends have my back.
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But I’d have more confidence I could pull this off with ADDITIONAL DONATIONS. I’ve worked on this for over a year and a half already, making decisions like holding off on performing so the money could stream to “The D”. But it’s obvious I cant pull off something this ambitious alone. And it’s not  the kind of project I’d want to pull off alone. It’s all about the power of community and friendships and how that ignites spirit.
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When left to my own devices my songs have always been about if your life isn’t working get yourself up and MAKE A CHANGE. “I’m just burning doing the Neutron Dance” means if the world explodes tomorrow I will at least have lived the life I want to live.”
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I relate to Detroit not just because it’s my hometown but because my entire career has been a series of starting overs, exactly what Detroit is faced with now. So I know the only way up is to not be afraid of going there and putting your imagination in the driver’s seat.  From there on it’s sheer nerve and chutzpah and that’s what’s very much alive and well in Detroit.  And why it’s so uplifting to go there. And why I know I will get the most spirited performance on earth out of these Motown babies no matter how I pull it off.
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Ultimately, Detroit will not only have a theme song, and videos and documentary commemorating it, but this is a way for all profits in perpituity to go to two Detroit art gems, The Heidelberg Project and Mosaic Youth Theater.
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Thanks to places in Detroit that have opened their doors to me like The Whitney – an elegant restaurant in the oldest house in Detroit on the first paved road in the world – and Vinsetta Garage –  a killer food joint in what was the baddest hot rod garage in the city of cars –  both of whom are hosting fundraisers  for “The D” when I go back to Detroit in a couple of weeks.
This kind of generosity abounds in Detroit. And that generosity and spirit pushes me to ask you once again to please support me and “The D”. Even $5 is a vote of confidence that keeps me going (not that hundreds don’t help!).
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And, of course, please help spread the word and share “The D” on Facebook , Twitter and the like.
And please remember to DONATE HEREhttp://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD
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To follow my Detroit adventures:
Twitter @WeSingTheD, @AlleeWillis
DONATE ON INDIEGOGO: http://igg.me/at/WeSingTheD
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Love,
Allee

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!!!

Just got back from a quickie 2-1/2 day trip to the Motor City to go to the pre-release book signing party for Heart Soul Detroit, Jenny Risher’s fantastic photo essay book coming out in March that I’m in featuring 50 iconic Detroiters. Thrill of thrills sitting next to Martha Reeves of Martha and The Vandellas, one of my all-time favorite Motown groups, as we signed our pages.

This wasn’t my first encounter with Ms. Reeves. In 2008, along with Congresswoman Joanne Watson, she awarded me my first Commendation from the Detroit City Council.

I was also in Detroit this trip to lay the groundwork for “The D”, the massive unofficial official Detroit theme song I’m going back in September to record with potentially hundreds of thousands of Detroiters.

As such, I met with Tyree Guyton, who created one of Detroit’s most precious jewels, The Heidelberg Project.

I seriously hope to collaborate with Tyree. I spent almost every Saturday of my youth climbing on piles of crushed cars and assorted junk, artifacts that influence my art style to this day and upon which Heidelberg is built. My father’s scrapyard was just down the street from Heidelberg so I treasure that area of the city.

I also did an unexpected Q&A with some seriously talented kids at Mosaic Youth Theatre.

They have the good taste to be doing some of my music at a program they’re doing at the Detroit Institute of Arts in March.

I may end up coming back for that because these kids were seriously great and evolved. And, of course, I’ll use any excuse to come back for this…

… Chef Greg and his insanely incredible tasting Boogaloo Wonderland!…

…which I LOVE so much I fly him to LA to serve them at my live shows.

Chef Greg’s D’Emilis Cafe is on Curtis and Wyoming, the corner I used to get off the bus on to go to high school back in the day.  I invited some family and friends there on Saturday before I had to get on the plane to come back to LA.

Chef Greg made me a peach cobbler for the plane.

Which was good because a bottle of water spilled in my backpack and drenched all my money which was still soaked when the food cart came down the aisle selling the crappy plane food.

So here’s to dry money and plenty of it, Boogaloo Wonderlands, and a bright future for the once and future city of the future, Detroit!  See you in September for some serious Dancin’ in the Streets!

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!

All the hits you can stand to hear!!! And the last time in an architectural treasure.

https://www.alleewillis.com/detroit/mumford-last-call.html

Off to host a greatest hits concert at my high school, Mumford, before the wrecking ball knocks down one of the most gorgeous Deco buildings ever ….

(Don’t start me on THAT!)…and the teachers, staff and principal are all let go so kids can walk into the cement block replacement and a wall of new faces over the summer.  So this is going to be a big, fat blowout-sendoff-of-an-affair if I have anything to say about it.  Which I do!

So 6PM. Thurs. night at Mumford. If you live in Detroit, get yourself to the funkiest couple of hours in the city.  You do NOT need to have gone to Mumford to enjoy this. Really, if I do say so myself, there isn’t a corner or mousehole in the world where they don’t know “September”.  It’s a fundraiser for the choir and tickets are only $5!!!

I’ll also be heading over to my father’s high school, Cass, which becomes only the second high school in the country to perform my musical, The Color Purple. Performances are Wed. – Sat.  Ive been waiting for the high school part of TCP since I wrote it so I can’t wait!

The rest of the week is filled with an endless slew of meetings with movers and shakers, large and small, as I feel out a couple of long term projects I want to do in Detroit. There will also be a lot of barbecue and soul food. In anticipation and though it’s not from Detroit, this was lunch from Uncle Andre’s in Studio City, Ca. yesterday:

 

Usually, I blog endlessly about my exploits in Detroit, but this time I come back to LA just in time to jump into rehearsals for my Allee Willis’ Super Ball Bounce Back Review live show at King King on May 8 & 9.  Im going to try and use this trip to become an interested and dedicated Tweeter, which has felt more like an invasion of my mental state since I signed up soon after the bird launched.  But I’ll be in trouble if I concentrate on blogging and not beefing up for my live show, using my hotel bedroom as a pretend stage and finishing the seemingly endless amounts of special visuals and animations I started getting ready with Alfonso Estrada for the show.

So Bon Voyage as I head for LAX. Listen for the tweety bird (which I’ll probably post the best of here too).  Back in a week. And back with AWMOK.com postings tomorrow when I awake in the Motor City.