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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.

That’s about it for now. Here’s the link to my story in the Washington Post again:  “Most interesting woman you’ve never heard of” (so please get your ass to my show and help rectify the situation!)

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.

 

All around it was a very good SEPTEMBER week here at Willis Wonderland LA as well as Willis W in Detroit.

Yes I know there is a Willis Street in almost every major city in the country. But this particular one is not only the exact spot my parents first met when they lived kitty corner from each in Detroit oh so may years ago, but it’s also the street that was taken over to make way for this intersection below, in a housing complex started by retired Motown singers and where we sang one of the sing-alongs for “The D” record and videos.

As the reliably magic day – the 21st of September – approached, NPR did a great story on the timelessness of my very first hit, “September”, co-written with Al McKay and Maurice White. Professors of Musicology even broke it down for analysis as to why it is so eternally happy and a song that will literally never end.

0It’s been decades now that every weekend I receive at least 5 videos of the song played at someone’s wedding or drunken karaoke spree or there’s a bar mitzvah boy spinning around his blond dream girl, anywhere and everywhere happiness is the intention. And indeed THAT makes me very happy!

Then I had literally one if the greatest days of my life in Detroit on THE BaDeYa 21st of September when I performed my very sold out “BaDeYa, Detroit!” show, featuring a 15 piece band put together from musicians and singers we discovered at the sing-alongs and while filming the feature-length-exceedingly-hybrid-documentary, Allee Willis Loves Detroit.

The show/party also included dancers from Mosaic Youth Theatre Of Detroit, one of “The D”/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit’s beneficiaries, spinning car tires over their heads, choreographed videographers leaping over drums on cymbal crashes and organ sweeps, as well as the obligatory obsessive amount of junk food I subsist on.

And then how much better does it get when you get Tavis Smily in an Afro (attempting to) shake his booty to ’September”’s sister, “Boogie Wonderland”, on Dancing With The Stars, all in the same week?!  Though he sported one of those chopped down naturals when a good footlong Billy Preston was called for.

I have been blessed with a wonderful (albeit challenging) life and am living my creative (albeit money challenged) dream right now and I thank all of you who made it possible! Remember to throw some gas money in the tank please.

BaDeYa!

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 unofficial official theme song I cowrote for Detroit, in a laundromat with people essentially spinning around in dryers while singing.

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.

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!.

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.)

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”!

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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!

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

Allee

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

After almost four decades the torturous vice grip on my psyche has been chiseled open so that my little stage personality, the one that once cowered in a dark corner  but whose pleas to give it a chance never stopped rattling through my brain, has finally put on some clothes and come out to play!  FINALLY all the noise can stop!!

Of course, like I do most things, I remain scared of them for a hundred years, then I finnallly get my toe wet and then proceed to become obsessed and jump into things in such a big way it’s all I wanna do and costs me every dime I have pursuing it as I’m a self-funded artist and I live for my art. As such, in the space of seven shows over the last year I went from a piano and a clusterfuck  of technical mistakes to an if-I-do-say-so-myself-and-if-the-standing-room-only-sell-out-crowds-are-any-indication magnificent one-woman-extravaganza-with-25 musicians-dancers-masseuses-chefs-and-me-in-it show, well oiled to the point of being a rig, hit-filled, and more fun than 27 barrels of monkeys.

But my Ringling Brothers scale troupe is too expensive for mommy to mount monthly, which is what she’d/ I’d be doing if left to her/my own devices. So to keep my performer chops simmering lest they run back into the cave they’ve been atrophying in all these years, I’m getting up and doing my very first stand up ever this coming Sunday night, January 20, at UnCabaret.  My lovely and gracious friend, the ever-talented Beth Lapedis, whose creation this legendary comedy series is, asked me to alight the stage joining my other good friends Tim Bagley and Michael McDonald (he of Mad TV fame and not the singer who I’m also friends with and would be happy to take the stage with anytime!). Karen Kilgariff and Faith Tucker are also on the bill.

Here are me, Tim, Michael, and our good friend Jimmy McGill at my place a couple of years ago.

 

You can see that I was comfortable enough with these guys that I didn’t worry about putting on makeup or serving them  on paper plates (though please notice the exceptional plastic fish paper plate holders the spaghetti-smeared dinnerware sit in).  I hope that comfortable feeling carries over to joining them on stage. That comfortable feeling certainly worked for Tim, who bagged the free foot massage after  winning “The First Three People to Win Five Chunks of Soul Get a Free Foot Massage During The Next Song” game at my BaDeYa, Baby! live show this last November.

That show being what gave me the guts to get up and try this standup thing to begin with. So it’s all come full circle and I hope Tim remembers my generous gift of a foot massage and musters up a laugh for my routine even if some of it flops around like a landlocked fish. Which I pray it doesn’t.  Why don’t you buy some tickets and find out for yourself?

 

 

 


On May 8 and 9, 2012, I took a giant leap in my evolution and broke through an almost 4 decades-long bout of stage fright, performing two sold-out performances of my Super Ball Bounce Back Review, a combo concert/sing-along/party extravaganza at King King in Hollywood.

Lack of performing has always been a raw, gaping hole in a long career that’s stretched across various fields of the arts, despite the fact that I’ve always had the balls to throw myself off cliffs as I periodically dive-bomb into pursuits I know nothing about. I’ve hosted multimedia theme parties where I’m perenially on mic so that even the conversations I have with everyone are blasted throughout my house or wherever else I host these beasts. And God knows I walk around in hair and clothes that makes peoples’ necks snap if they’ve never gotten a gander of me before. Throw in that I’ve sold 50,000,000 records despite the fact that to this day I have no idea how to read, notate or play music, and I sold hundreds of paintings before I realized that you mix colors to get different colors. So backing away from displaying myself publicly made absolutely no sense.

But then I realized that this theme of living fearlessly was at the heart of everything I ever created. View life as a creative process. You are the canvas. If you’re stuck with a weakness, for God sakes turn it into a hook. Nine times out of ten, you’re the bogey monster scaring yourself shitless so just get out the way! So I finally did.

So here then are four videos from my Super Ball Bounce Back Review.  If you like them and are going to be in LA on September 21 and/or 22, I’m rising again at NoHoPAC in a salute to “September”, the first line of which mentions the date of the opening night.

“September”:

“Boogie Wonderland”:

“Neutron Dance”:

And the whole enchilada:

Badeya!