Dionne Warwick

Soulful vocalist Dionne Warwick was born Marie Dionne Warrick (with no "w") in East Orange, New Jersey on December 12th, 1940 and grew up in a family that loved Gospel music. She first sang in Newark's New Hope Baptist Church choir and later played piano with The Drinkard Singers, a Gospel group her mother managed, and went on to study at Connecticut's Hart School of Music. During the same period, she also formed The Gospelaires with her sister, Dee Dee, Myrna Utley and Carol Slade. Throughout a series of personnel changes, the trio was increasingly employed as backing singers, eventually evolving into The Sweet Inspirations. Among those who passed through the group was Doris Troy, who is most often remembered for her 1963 Top Ten hit "Just One Look". While appearing at The Apollo Theatre, a man came back stage and said he needed background singers for a session with Sam 'The Man' Taylor. Dionne volunteered the group and soon they were booked to sing on sessions at recording studios in New York with The Drifters, Ben E. King, Chuck Jackson, Dinah Washington, Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, and Solomon Burke to name just a few.

While recording background vocals for a Drifters' track, Dionne was noticed by composer Burt Bacharach, who approached her to record some demo tracks of his songs. One of the tunes, "It's Love That Really Counts", caught the attention of Scepter Records President Florence Greenberg, who quickly signed her to the label. Her first single, released in the Autumn of 1962, was "Don't Make Me Over", which reached #21 on the Billboard Pop chart. In an odd twist, Dionne's last name, Warrick, was mis-spelled as Warwick on the single and she began using that name professionally from then on.

Her next two releases, "Don't Make Me Over" and "Make The Music Play" barely made the Top 100, but her fourth effort, "Anyone Who Had A Heart" reached #8 in the US and became an international hit. "Walk On By" did even better, climbing to #6 in mid-1964, at the height of The British Invasion. Not all of her released became hits, but she returned to the US Top Ten in 1966 with "Message To Michael" and reached #15 the following year with "Alfie". 1967 brought Dionne a two-sided hit, "I Say A Little Prayer" (#4) backed with "Theme From Valley Of The Dolls" (#2), which brought her first RIAA Gold Record for selling one million records. Her next single, 1968's "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?", became an international million seller and a Top 10 hit in several countries, including America, the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Mexico. The following year she reached #7 with "This Girl's In Love With You" and went one position further with "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" in 1970. By the end of 1971, Dionne Warwick had sold an estimated 35 million singles and albums internationally and more than 16 million singles in the USA alone.

In 1971, Warwick abandoned Scepter Records and signed a 5 million dollar contract with Warner Brothers. Without their biggest hit maker, Scepter would go bankrupt by 1975 and was sold to Springboard International Records a year later. Dionne's relationship with her new label resulted in some disappointing releases and her partnership with Bert Bacharach and Hal David soon floundered. The songwriting duo decided to terminate their working relationship with Warwick, which resulted in her filing and eventually winning a 5 million dollar law suit. During her stay with Warner, her biggest hit came in the form of a duet with The Spinners called "Then Came You", a number one smash in 1974. When her five year contract was up in 1977, Dionne left Warner Brothers.

She moved to Arista Records in 1979, where production work by Barry Manilow rekindled her commercial standing. "I'll Never Love This Way Again" reached #5 and brought her a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance. "Deja Vu" climbed to #15 and was nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance. Over the next two decades Warwick continued to score solo hits, including the Barry Gibb written, Top Ten hit, "Heartbreaker", all the while remaining in demand as a guest artist. She appeared on the hit singles "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" and "Friends In Love" (#38) with Johnny Mathis, on "Love Power" (#12) with Jeffrey Osborne, "How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye?" (#27) with Luther Vandross and on the Grammy-winning hit "That's What Friends Are For" (#1) with Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Elton John.

Along the way, she racked up five Grammys and five Gold albums, despite devoting increasing amounts of time to non-musical endeavors like the Dionne Warwick Design Group (an interior design firm), the nationally syndicated radio show Love Notes From Around the World, the TV show Solid Gold (which she hosted for three years in the early '80s), a perfume company, the Psychic Friends Network (a 1-900 business), and, most importantly, major charity work for AIDS-related causes (she has raised millions of dollars through benefit concerts and fund raising efforts).

In the '90s, Dionne recorded two albums for Arista, 1993's "Friends Can Be Lovers", which featured cameos by Sting and her cousin Whitney Houston, and 1995's Latin-themed "Aquarela Do Brazil". Both sold well and received positive reviews, indicating that after more than 30 years in the recording business, Dionne Warwick was as creative and popular as ever. Throughout much of the decade, she hosted infomercials for the Psychic Friends Network, which featured psychic Linda Georgian. That relationship ended when the network filed for bankruptcy in 1998.

In 2004, Dionne's first Christmas album was released. Entitled "My Favorite Time of the Year", the CD featured Jazz-style interpretations of holiday classics. During the following year, she was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball. 2006 saw Dionne Warwick introduced to a new generation of fans when she appeared on season five of American Idol, where she mentored the contestants and sang a medley of "Walk On By" and "That's What Friends Are For", with longtime collaborator Burt Bacharach accompanying her on the piano.

Warwick's association with Arista had ended in 1994 and she was without a recording contract for twelve years. She signed with Concord Records for one album, "My Friends and Me", a collection of duets that reworked her old hits with Gloria Estefan, Olivia Newton-John, Wynonna Judd and Reba McEntire. The effort reached #66 on Billboard's R&B chart. A compilation CD of her greatest hits and love songs called "The Love Collection" entered the UK Pop charts at #27 on February 16th, 2008. That same year she released her second Gospel album, "Why We Sing", which featured guest spots by her sister Dee Dee Warwick and BeBe Winans. Sadly, Dee Dee passed away in October of that year at the age of 63.

In 2010 Dionne recorded a CD of Sammy Cahn standards and wrote her memoir My Life as I See It. In March of 2011, she released her next album, "Only Trust Your Heart" and also found time to appear on the NBC-TV show Celebrity Apprentice, where her charity was The Hunger Project. For 2012, Dionne's tour schedule had her booked in France, Ireland, England, Austria as well as several appearances across the U.S. Tragedy struck Dionne's family on February 11th, 2012, when her cousin Whitney Houston was found dead in a bathroom at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton Hotel, just hours before the two were supposed to meet up at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy celebration. In October of that year, Dionne celebrated 50 years in the music business by releasing a new album called "Now". The track list included make-overs of Bacharach and David hits such as "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me", "Reach Out For Me" and "Make It Easy On Yourself", as well as four brand new songs. Dionne's troubles continued in March, 2013 when she filed for bankruptcy over a tax debt dating back almost 20 years. Her attorney insisted that she was the "innocent victim of terrible mismanagement". For the year 2012, she appeared on a list of the top 500 people owing the most in unpaid taxes in the state of California.

On a brighter note, September, 2013, brought a collaboration with Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus on his song "Hope Is Just Ahead". In October, 2014, she released a new album called "Feels So Good". In December 2015, Dionne's website issued a five track EP called "Tropical Love". 2016 saw a "Heartbreaker 2" disc released by Funkytowngrooves which consisted of the original "Heartbreaker" album and 15 bonus tracks. In 2017 her website showed a busy touring schedule of appearances slated for casinos and resorts across America.

For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with Dionne Warwick