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

 

 

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This late 60’s Soul Grabber sign for Budweiser malt liquor is one of my favorite possessions. Everything about it screams late Afro 60’s, one of my favorite periods in Soul. In my personal life there’s one supreme SOUL GRABBER and her name is Patti LaBelle. She was the first singer to start regularly doing my songs, starting with “Little Girls” in 1978 and continuing throughout the years with others like “Come What May” and “Stir It Up”, which won me a Grammy when it was on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. When I first met her Patti also introduced me to Herbie Hancock and between the two of them that led to Earth, Wind & Fire.  So when it comes to grabbing souls Patti got a hold of mine, shook it loose and got it soaring.

Last night I went to a surprise birthday party thrown for Patti. As surprise parties go, as parties in general go, this was a killer, a real SOUL GRABBER. Here I am with Patti and her mom:

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And here with Anita Pointer (of The Pointer Sisters, also responsible for me getting that Grammy with “Neutron Dance”), Luenell (hooker extraordinaire in Borat and fantastic comedienne/friend), Bunny Hull (who wrote “New Attitude” for Patti), Constance Tillotson (inseparable from Luenell – we call ourselves Twinkie, Ding Dong and Hostess Snowball):

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And here I am with Loretta Devine, original Dream Girl…:

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… and Siedah Garrett, singer extraordinaire who also wrote  “Man in the Mirror”:

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And for the second day in a row here I am with RuPaul who I just saw at my party:

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Don’t worry, I  haven’t forgotten about the Soul Grabber…

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Here I am with Charlo Crossley (one of my oldest friends, a former Bette Midler Harlette and also a Church Lady on Broadway in my musical, The Color Purple) and Rudy Calvo, who’s always with Patti whenever I see her:

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The great Kym Whitley:

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And the so great Brian Dickens, Fantasia’s manager. I co-wrote and just co-produced “I’m Here”, Celie’s big song in The Color Purple, with a live 40 piece orchestra and Fantasia, who starred as Celie.  It comes out July 13.

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I still haven’t forgotten about the Soul Grabber…

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Here I am DEEP in conversation with the birthday girl:

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And with Cheryl Dickerson and Freda Payne (“Band Of Gold”, “Bring the Boys Home” and party regular here at Willis Wonderland.)

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And here I am with Norwood, songwriter and owner of my favorite front lawn in LA…

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… the one with all the statues of David in front of it:

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That house grabs my soul and everyone else’s who spots it and does an abrupt turn off of 3rd Street to park in front and take photos.

So happy birthday Patti LaBelle and may your soul continue to be grabbed so that you may regularly grab all of ours!

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Photos: Prudence Fenton and Allee Willis