Anyone who grew up during the 1970s and 1980s knows the theme song to “The Jeffersons” and the character Willona Woods from “Good Times.” Both exist because of award-winning actor Ja’Net DuBois, 74, who died on February 17 in her sleep at her home in Glendale, California. DuBois’ family confirmed the news, according to a Deadline report, on February 18.
A two-time Emmy Award-winner, DuBois knew how to make an entrance, which she did spectacularly, every week, with her fashionable and saucy “Good Times” character Willona, guardian of Penny (played by a young Janet Jackson) and neighbor to the Evans (Esther Rolle, John Amos and Jimmie Walker). Her voice then became a cultural anthem after she composed and sang “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song for “The Jeffersons.”
“She wrote that song as a promise to her mother, that when she obtained a certain level of stardom, that her dream was to essentially have her mom live in a deluxe apartment. That was written and sung as a gift to her mother, Lilian DuBois,” her youngest daughter, Kesha Gupta-Fields told The New York Times in an article published February 19. “It provided a lot of Black people with an anthem. For them it provided a lot of encouragement.”
DuBois is survived by her daughters Rani Gupta and Kesha Gupta-Fields, her son Provat Gupta, and her sister Lilian DuBois. Feeling the loss of the star, fans and friends—including Jackson and Norman Lear, creator of “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons”—expressed their sorrow on social media:
I am so very saddened to hear my longtime friend Ja’Net DuBois has passed away. I saw first hand how she broke stereotypes and changed the landscape for Black women in entertainment. I’m grateful in recent years I had a chance to see her and create more lasting memories. I pray for comfort for all her family and friends. Thank you Ja’Net, I’ll miss you. 🖤
A post shared by Janet Jackson (@janetjackson) on Feb 18, 2020 at 6:07pm PST
Oh man!!! Just saw you! What a pleasure it was to meet you. You shaped so much of the best memories of my childhood! God bless you, Ja’net DuBois! RIP💔 pic.twitter.com/tiEGNn9dVO— Viola Davis (@violadavis) February 19, 2020