Emmy nominated and Grammy winning songwriter Allee Willis died on December 24th, Christmas Eve, of a suspected heart attack. She was 72 years old. Willis’ partner Prudence Fenton announced her death online.
Allee Willis grew up in Detroit and moved to New York in 1969 after obtaining with a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin. She then went on to work as a copywriter at Columbia and Epic Records before moving into music and songwriting in 1972. Bonnie Raitt was the first to cover one of her songs.
Willis wrote and composed the song “I’ll Be There for You” for The Rembrandts, which was used as the theme song for NBC’s comedy series Friends, the television sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Friends aired on NBC for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. “I’ll be there for you” is one of the biggest TV theme song hits ever and earned Willis an Emmy nomination.
The original theme, which was under one minute long, was later re-recorded as a longer, 3 minute pop song. After program director Charlie Quinn, along with radio announcer Tom Peace, looped the original short version into a full length track and broadcast it on a radio station, it became so popular that they had to record a longer version. “Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it,” lead singer Phil Solem said.
When “I’ll Be There for You” was released in 1995, it topped the US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart for eight weeks and also peaked the Mainstream Top 40 charts. In Canada, it peaked at number one for five consecutive weeks and was the best-selling single of 1995.
Friends starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer as six friends living in Manhattan. Friends was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards and won for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002.