I know, I know… It’s been pathetically long since my last update. That might be because of the 20-hour-days-minimum-six-days-a-week schedule those of us working on the Detroit record, video, and filmhave been adhering to, handstitching everything together as if we were Betsy Ross making that flag. There have been great, jubilant days…
…as well as days that make you want to roll onto the freeway and pray an 18 wheeler puts you out of your misery….
But that’s the life of an independent 99%-self funded artist and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Well, I WOULD love someone to dunk me into a big ol’ vat of Lincolns…
Old photo I know… If you can’t tell by the lack of wrinkles on my face you can certainly tell by it being the last time I ever wore a dress. But aside from that I leave each day totally uplifted by the spirit pouring out of the footage and sounds leaping off the record. Wish I could leak a teeeeeny tiny sample but let’s just say that no other city has had a song that sounded so insanely jubilant and looked quite so unique.
I don’t wanna let too much cat outta the bag until we premiere the record and video in Detroit this SEPTEMBER. Now that the year-long jotting down of logs has ended the video’s about 60% finished. In the meantime we’ve also begun interviewing some of my esteemed friends and colleagues for Allee Willis Loves Detroit, the film. The bounty includes this young Detroiter:
…and this young man who gave me my big break by having me write for his group, Earth, Wind & Fire:
The celeb list in the film is long because people have a lot to say about Detroit (and apparently me). This includes many Color Purple people and a stunning array of Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Academy Award, and Pulitzer Prize winners, a smattering of whom we’ve filmed so far including RuPaul, Ricki Lake, Bruce Vilanch, Lesley Ann Warren, Marsha Norman, and Luenell with a whole slew yet to come.
Not to say that the finish line of the feature film is in sight but we are crawling towards it with skinned knees, blisters on our fingers and faith in our hearts!
As for “The D”, the record is about 95% done. Just in need of us moving out of my home studio – not to berate my little studio which back in the day James Brown called one of the best and funkiest sounding in LA – but so we have a shot at mixing in more opportune acoustic conditions so the 40 basses, 35 guitars and over 5000 singers don’t make everything too wobbly sounding as they bounce off the heads of Sammy Davis Jr., Groove On Brother, and other soulful onlookers here at Willis Wonderland.
We’ve also been putting together a marketing deck so we can raise real money to get “The D”/ Allee Willis Loves Detroit finally on the road. As all of us normally peer through artists’ eyes we had no idea what we were doing here and this took some months of concentration not to mention putting any further record, video or documentary editing on hold.
If you know of any deep pocket persons or company/institutions that should see our lovely and provocative marketing deck please let me know. And to drop a few coins of your own in the tank you can always go here.
In the meantime, go on wit yo bad self, Detroit!
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.
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.
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”?
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:
On November 8 and 9, 2012 I reprised BaDeYa, Baby!, my sold out one-woman-show-with-25-people-in-it at NoHoPAC in beautiful North Hollywood, CA. Just as the shows that preceded it on September 21 and 22nd, it was a salute to my very 1st hit, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, the first line of which is “Do you remember the 21st night of September?”. All the hits, sing-alongs, dancers, games, prizes, Boogaloo Wonderland sandwiches from my hometown Detroit, not to mention the big ol’ greasy foot massages conspired to make these evenings no normal singer/songwriter fare! So enjoy the show and the next time I do this I hope you BaDeYa with me!
See all 450 photos here. November 8, 2012 show coming SOON. Until then. BaDeYa!
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.
And the whole enchilada:
Now this is how I like my songs sung! Mr. Nagatani’s Kindergarten class sings my Friends theme to ensure maximum focus on mom on her special day.
Ideally I would’ve had a shitload of photos and videos to post already after my – I’m not too proud to say – sold out SMASH shows at King King in Hollywood this past Tuesday and Wednesday nights. But, alas, as I’m everything from the star of the show to co-producer, co-director, set designer, maker of all souvenirs and handouts, MC and anything else that’s involved in putting the show together, just getting everything unpacked and trying to make up for the total 6 hours sleep I got in the last week means I won’t get any serious documentation up before next week or so. But here are a couple videos that my assistant Dina, on stage with me at all times, shot on my little Canon Elf. I only have them up on Facebook so hopefully you can see them there by clicking below. Didn’t want to put anything up on YouTube yet as I want to wait until I have the real footage. SO way way wayyyyy more coming in weeks to come, with at least photos hopefully by Tuesday.
Part of “September”:
Part of “Boogie Wonderland”: