Legendary Funk Brothers guitarist Eddie Willis dies at 82

(August 20, 2018) He was a guitarist supreme and a member of one of the great bands ever assembled. Eddie Willis, longtime member of Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers band, has died at age 82 at his home in Gore Springs, Mississippi. Willis had battled for years with the effects of polio, and had also struggled to care for his wife, who had suffered a dog attack a few years ago.

As one of the premiere guitarists with The Funk Brothers, Willis's playing permeated countless iconic hits by The Four Tops, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wells, Junior Walker & The All Stars, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson 5, The Spinners, The Isley Brothers, and many more.

(August 20, 2018) He was a guitarist supreme and a member of one of the great bands ever assembled. Eddie Willis, longtime member of Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers band, has died at age 82 at his home in Gore Springs, Mississippi. Willis had battled for years with the effects of polio, and had also struggled to care for his wife, who had suffered a dog attack a few years ago.

As one of the premiere guitarists with The Funk Brothers, Willis's playing permeated countless iconic hits by The Four Tops, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wells, Junior Walker & The All Stars, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson 5, The Spinners, The Isley Brothers, and many more.

Willis was known for his muted, syncopated guitar riffs, which made his work some of the most memorable on Motown hits, from “Please Mr. Postman” to “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” His work was later recognized by artists outside of Motown, such as Phil Collins, who had Willis perform on a covers album he recorded in 2010.

Willis’s friends had organized both recordings and concerts as fundraisers over the past few years to help him cope with medical bills. He was a giant in both the worldwide soul music community, and those communities showed their love for him during his difficult days. Last year we debuted a tribute recording of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for Willis from many of his musical friends.

Willis was one of the last links to the great Motown bands of the 60s, and his death will be mourned around the world. Godspeed, Eddie Willis.

Photo credit: Angela George, EddieWillisHWOFMar2013CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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