Ja’Net DuBois has died. The multi-talented star of the classic Norman Lear TV sitcom Good Times passed away in her sleep on February 18 at age 74, TMZ reports. DuBois had not been sick at the time of her death and her sudden passing at her California home was unexpected.
DuBois’ career spanned more than five decades. In one of her earliest stints, she played Loretta Allen on the soap opera Love of Life, from 1970 to 1972.
From 1974 to 1979, DuBois played the Evans family’s sassy neighbor Willona Woods on Good Times, a character who was known for her iconic entrances. Willona was also the adoptive mom of a young Janet Jackson’s character, Penny.
— Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete) February 18, 2020
While she was best known to TV audiences for her role on Good Times, DuBois was a Broadway veteran who also received two Emmys for her voiceover work as Mrs. Avery on the animated series The PJs. She played Grandma Ellington on The Wayans Bros., and also logged an impressive list of credits on hit films including I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Tropic Thunder.
But perhaps most impressive, DuBois was also an accomplished singer who wrote and sang the famous “Movin’ On Up” theme song that opened The Jeffersons. The song has long been touted as one of the greatest TV theme songs of all time.
DuBois scored the songwriting gig after telling series producer Norman Lear that she was happy with her success on Good Times but wanted to show off her other talents, according to MeTV. The legendary TV creator suggested she work on the theme song to his upcoming series The Jeffersons. DuBois used her real life as inspiration for the song after talking to her mom about the family’s dream of “moving on up” in the world.
“I moved my whole family,” DuBois told Jet magazine.
“I bought [my mom] a house, bought her a mink coat. I did everything, retired her. I did everything I ever promised her.”
“Movin’ On Up” later appeared on DuBois’ debut solo album, Queen of the Highway, in 1980.
Fans saw DuBois on TV just two months ago. The actress made a cameo alongside her Good Times co-stars Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma Eans) and Jimmie Walker (JJ Evans) at the end of the live remake of a classic Good Times episode on ABC’s Live In Front of a Studio Audience.
Thank you, ABC, for making sure America got one more look at the legend that was Ja'Net Dubois https://t.co/RpmL8eqpnk
— TVMoJoe (@TVMoJoe) February 19, 2020
Earlier this month, DuBois reunited with fellow Good Times cast members Walker, Stanis, Ralph Carter, and Johnny Brown for the 2020 Hollywood Show in Burbank, per the New York Post.
Following her death, fans and famous friends remembered DuBois and her amazing talent in tributes posted to social media.
Actress Holly Robinson-Peete took to Twitter to write, “Devastated to hear of the sudden passing of the iconic Ja’Net Dubois. We all cherished her as the beloved Willona on #GoodTImes. Got to work with her on Hangin With Mr. Cooper. I followed her around like a puppy dog. She shared so much wisdom. I loved and will miss her dearly.”
Ja’Net DuBois is survived by her children Yovanne, Burghardt, and Rani.