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Anita Porée, acclaimed songwriter, Sonoma County artist and poet, dies at 78

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Before Anita Porée quit Los Angeles for Kenwood, she wrote hit songs for Eddie Kendricks in his post-The Temptations stage, and for The Friends of Distinction.

Throughout her three decades in Sonoma County, Porée painted canvases, wrote poetry and music, and advocated for social justice.

“Anita was very adamant about speaking out,” said her brother, musician Greg Porée of Highland Park in northeast L.A. He added, “She was just a brilliant artist.”

Longtime friend Mary Moore, the veteran peace and justice activist in Camp Meeker, said of Anita Porée, “She was known for her music and art, but she was a good writer, too. She was a woman of so many talents.”

Porée died Sunday of cancer. She was 78.

She was most widely known for the songwriting she did from the late 1960s to the mid-’70s with her brother and Jerry Peters, Leonard Caston Jr., Frank Wilson and Skip Scarborough.

The rhythm-and-blues classic “Going in Circles” and “Love or Let Me be Lonely” both put the band The Friends of Distinction high on the charts in 1969 and ‘70.

Porée also co-wrote “Keep on Truckin’.” In 1973, it became Eddie Kendricks’ first big hit after he left The Temptations, the soul, rock, funk and R&B group he’d co-founded. “Boogie Down” was also released in ‘73 and also was a hit for Kendricks.

In an online tribute to Porée, Harry Elston, who drove a limo for The Temptations before co-founding The Friends of Distinction, wrote that she “was a pioneer during a period when women were less accepted as popular songwriters ... Over the years her compositions found their way onto albums by artists as diverse as Jennifer Lopez, D’Angelo, The Gap Band and The Jackson Five.”

Porée started out as an actress.

She was born in Chicago on Sept. 14, 1939. Her father was New Orleans-born Creole and her mother was Choctaw, African-American and white. Their daughter wasn’t yet a teen when the family moved to Los Angeles.

After graduating from Our Lady of Loretta High School and studying at L.A. City College, Porée began acting on stage.

“As time went on, she became disillusioned with that,” her brother said. He said she was in a “down time in her life” when the two of them and Jerry Peters, a pianist and composer, began writing music together.

That collaboration led Peters and Anita Porée to compose for The Friends of Distinction and then for Eddie Kendricks, who left The Temptations shortly after its hit song, “Just My Imagination.”

“She became a wonderful songwriter and her forte was lyrics,” Greg Porée said.

He said that after several years of composing songs, his sister became disheartened with the music industry “and the whole Hollywood scene.

“I think there was a lot of Hollywood that just wasn’t ready for a woman of color who was that savvy,” he said.

So Anita Porée made a change, moving to Kenwood and re-focusing her life on creating art with paints, composing poetry and calling for justice for racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and others denied equal treatment and opportunity.

For years, the multi-racial Porée wrote a column, “And So I Grew Two Voices,” in the former Sonoma County Peace Press.

She also showed and sold her paintings, accompanying much of it with poetry or prose.

Gregg Porée traveled to Sonoma Valley to be with his sister as her health declined. He said it was a joy to observe “the diversity of people who came to see her and the amount of love they showed her.

“It’s been wonderful to see the number of people whose life she has touched,” he said.

Anita Porée is survived also by her half-brother, Curtis Porée of Seattle.

There currently are no plans for services.