Keeping the Funk Alive: Iconic Motown Guitarist Eddie Willis Dead at 82

One of the last remaining Funk Brothers Dennis Coffey remembers Willis’ legacy on the Motown label.



The Funk Brothers were a legendary group of studio sessions who helped craft the coveted ‘Motown sound.’

On Monday, one of the last surviving Funk Brothers Eddie Willis passed away at the age of 82. Billboard reports that Willis had been living in Mississippi with his wife Rose and was battling declining health over the years — the lingering effects of childhood polio that forced him to use a cane for the majority of his life.

He performed regularly with fellow Funk Brother Dennis Coffey, who joined Motown in 1968 and was influenced by the guitar playing of Willis.

Coffey sat down with WDET’s Sam Beaubien to remember his legacy and listen to the tracks that Willis had performed on over the years.

The Funk Brothers were the subject of a 2002 documentary entitled Standing in the Shadows of Motown.


  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.
  • CultureShift
    Your soundtrack to discovering arts, culture, food, music and the latest local events worth your time throughout metro Detroit.