Who Was Allee Willis? 'Friends' Theme Song Writer Dies at 72, Said It Was 'Whitest Song I Ever Wrote'

Allee Willis, the American songwriter famed as the co-composer of the Friends theme song, has died at 72 years of age.

The artist was reported to have passed away from cardiac arrest, according to her publicist Ellyn Solis, at a hospital in Los Angeles, The New York Times reports.

Her songwriting career spans decades, having written for artists including Earth, Wind and Fire, James Brown, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight as well as on songs for The Color Purple musical.

One of her most recognized pieces to date in popular culture is the song "I'll Be There For You," the theme tune for the hit television series Friends which premiered in 1994.

Performed by American duo The Rembrandts and co-written with Friends producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman, Willis once described the tune as "the whitest song I ever wrote."

The piece was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1995, a year after it debuted on the show which first aired in 1994.

"It was the last thing I ever thought would be a hit, the whitest song I ever wrote. I'm very, very grateful for it," she said, according to Songfacts.

"I wrote it [The Friends theme song] very, very fast, most of the music was there but it was only a 60-second piece at that point...and the song exploded," she said, according to Songfacts.

Willis was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and never learned to play music, the Associated Press reports. She grew up listening to the music of Motown Records, the legendary record label in Detroit from which emerged some of the biggest soul music artists, including Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross and The Supremes and Stevie Wonder. Motown artists formed the foundation of Willis' musical inspirations, so the Friends theme tune was a detour from her musical roots.

"When they [media] were promoting The Color Purple, all of these newspaper reviews, I mean, here I've written for Earth, Wind & Fire, I've written with James Brown. And the only song they would ever mention that I wrote is this Friends theme. Could any song prepare you less to write The Color Purple? But I actually loved it, because it's that incongruity that I cherish the most in what I do," she said, Songfacts reports.

Allee Willis songwriters hall of fame 2018
Allee Willis attends 2018 Songwriter's Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala at New York Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 14, 2018 in New York City.

Willis' other theme song accolades include the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of the film Beverly Hills Cop as well as the song "You're the Best" from The Karate Kid film. Her music for The Color Purple musical won a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album and was nominated for a Tony Award in the Original Musical Score category.

She wrote songs for a host of other big name artists including Ray Charles, The Pointer Sisters, Cyndi Lauper and The Pet Shop Boys, and was reportedly working with rapper Big Sean in the last few months before her death, The New York Post reports.

She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018, more than 30 years after her Grammy win for "Stir It Up," which was performed by Patti LaBelle, from the Beverly Hills Cop film.

Willis is survived by her partner Prudence Fenton.