Tuesday, May 7, 2024


As a music lover, since I watched Scott Rosenbaum’s BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY, about a prolific songwriter in the early60’s who died prematurely at age 38, I have not been so in awe of a person I never heard of until I saw director Alexis Spraic’s THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALLEE WILLIS which premiered at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival. The first question I asked myself before I watched the film is, “Who in the world is Allee Willis?” And the 2nd question I asked, as I was watching was, “Why in the world have I never heard of her?”

Born in 1947 to a Jewish family in Detroit, she lost her mom at the age of 15 and turned to music as she struggled with family and personal problems. She gravitated to Motown/black music after listening to Barrett Strong’s “Money” and began writing music in the 70’s. Her mentor was Mary Wells, one of the very few female songwriters of the time. Thank goodness she didn’t listen to her dad, who warned her, “Stay away from black culture!”

I don’t want to give away too much of her accomplishments, as I think it will take away from watching the film and discovering, as I did, all that Allee achieved in her 72 years, but I will mention that she wrote Earth Wind and Fire’s iconic “September” and their “Boogie Woogie Wonderland”. She sold over 50 million records and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. Allee also was a successful multi-media artist, selling her works to the likes of actress Leslie Ann Warren and was among the earliest people to explore using the internet to promote herself, creating an internet show “Willisville” that was funded by businessman, Mark Cuban.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALLEE WILLIS is a wonderfully well-crafted film containing much archival footage, videoed by Willis herself, who began filming her life as a kid in the 1950’s. There are also interviews with many well-known personalities such as Cindy Lauper, Mark Cuban, Patti LaBelle, Paul Reubens and many more whose lives were touched by her. 

1 comment:

  1. I don’t know who Scott Rosenbaum is, but BANG! The Bert Berns Story was directed by Brett Berns and Bob Sarles.