Songwriters Willis and Warren Reveal Their Charm

Songwriters Willis and WarrenYou never know who will turn up on “What’s the Tee?,” the always entertaining podcast by RuPaul and Michelle Visage. To my delight, they welcomed songwriters on two occasions this year. Allee Willis appeared on Episode 223 (September 18, 2019), and Diane Warren on Episode 213 (July 10, 2019). I’m embarrassed to admit I had not known either writer played such a large role in popular music. Willis co-wrote a ton of well-known music, from “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” (Earth, Wind & Fire) to the Broadway music for The Color Purple and the theme song for Friends. Warren has written songs for dozens of artists, including Cher, Céline Dion, Aerosmith, Toni Braxton, Trisha Yearwood, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Whitney Houston… The list goes on and on.

Allee Willis: The Humor of Kitsch

In the podcast, Willis discusses her songwriting career, throwing outrageous L.A. parties, and her hilarious first meeting with the Del Rubio triplets. She recounts one great anecdote where the triplets performed at a party Willis organized. On stage in their signature blond bouffant hair-dos, go-go boots, and pink miniskirts, they were singing a kitschy version of “The Neutron Dance.” Willis had written the song, but the Del Rubio gals did not know the song had been a hit for the Pointer Sisters. Through the audience charged Ruth Pointer, parting the waters like Moses. Pointer ascended the stage and took over a microphone, then attempted to rev up the beat to the more lively version she had recorded. For several minutes a tug-of-war ensued between the two versions of the song.

Willis is also known for her alter-ego Bubbles the Artist, producer of tongue-in-cheek, deliberately downscale art. She mentions that she pioneered the use of the Internet as social media, long before Facebook and Twitter. She understood that the web’s power lay in connecting people and creating relationships. As happens to many visionaries, though, people in positions of power pooh-poohed her idea. They could only see the Internet as a vehicle for businesses or technology. So her idea never got off the ground.

Diane Warren: Songwriter Extraordinaire

Diane Warren began her career in the early 80s. Long sought out for her ability to craft hits, nine of Warren’s compositions hit #1 in the US Billboard Hot 100, all by different artists. In total, more than 30 of her songs have hit the U.S. top ten. What I love about Ru and Michelle is their ability to cover everything from serious craft to the mundane, so you get real insight into their guests. Warren’s lovable, feisty personality shines through the interview.

Warren has a connection to an infamous episode in pop music history. She penned the third hit by Milli Vanilli, “Blame It on the Rain”—the duo’s last hit before the big scandal. Two months after the song’s release, word leaked that they had not sung any of the songs on their album. They were impostors, hired for their looks, lip-synching in performances. Their meteoric rise came crashing down as they faced widespread ridicule. Warren had no role in the song’s recording. As she stated in another interview, “Whoever sang it sang it really well.”

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