Dionne Warwick, The Unsung Queen of Pop
When you think of groundbreaking record-shattering voices, there are specific names you always hear.
Gladys Knight? Check.
Chaka Khan? Check, Check.
Aretha Franklin?? Chiggity, Check, Check!
And you can't leave out the incomparable Ms. Patti Labelle when it comes to voices that shaped much of the music you hear today. But you know what voice I never hear anyone mention? Dionne Warwick.
If you are my age, you are most familiar with her due to the song "That's What Friends are For"...... annnnnd the Dionne Warwick Psychic Friends Network.
For many years, I thought she was famous for being able to tell the future while moonlighting as a singer. She sold that psychic hotline so much so that I was willing to risk an ass whooping to call that line.
But I didn't realize her pedigree nor did I understand her overall contributions to black music. In light of recent social media posts, I also think that others may not understand her impact either.
Born Marie Dionne Warrick in Orange, New Jersey, Ms. Warwick descended from a holy line of talent. Her aunts, uncles, and grandparents were in a gospel group called the Drinkard Singers. Her mother managed the group which included the amazing, Cissy Houston.
She grew up in a musical household honing her talents and eventually starting a group called the Gospelaires.
During a chance encounter at the Apollo, a man was in immediate need of backup singers and called upon the Drinkard Singers. Unfortunately, they were unable to perform leaving the Gospelaires to step up in their absence. This opportunity began their journey into the secular music business.
While attending school and singing backup for various singers, Ms. Warwick met Burt Bacharach with whom she would create a musical legacy alongside Hal David. Signed to Sceptre records with the Shirelles and the Isley Brothers, Dionne Warwick released "Don't Make Me Over." "Don't Make Me Over was a song that demanded that her lover accepts her for who she is instead of making her change.
With a flexible voice that can flawlessly move from her top to bottom range with ease, Ms. Warwick moved from background singer to headliner.
The writing team of Bacharach and David paired with the soft and strong vocals of Ms.Warwick produced hit after hit. Topping the charts with hits such as "Walk on By," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," and "Alfie."
During the 50s and 60s, the talented trio dominated the charts but started to see a decline during the 70s. The times were changing, and civil rights were at the forefront of the black community.
Songs reflecting the oppression and discontent with the government pushed aside the needs for campy pop songs that Warwick, Bacharach, and David were known. Her next several albums failed to produce any significant hits.
After another failed musical project in the 70s, Bacharach and David ended their musical partnership, leaving Ms. Warwick feeling betrayed. The ending of their musical legacies resulted in several lawsuits, while Warwick, Bacharach, and David wouldn't speak again for several years.
Dionne had a hard time finding her footing as an official solo act, as she relied on Bacharach and David's writing for many years. It wasn't until she collaborated with Spinners that she received her first #1 hit with Warner Brothers records in 1974.
In Ms.Warwick's personal life, she married and divorced William Elliot twice. After the second divorce, Ms. Warwick balanced her career and raising her two sons, while struggling to find new hits that flowed with the new generation's tone.
Eventually, Clive Davis would sign her to his fledgling new record label, Arista Records. Paired with Barry Manilow, "I'll Never Love Again" shot up the charts, followed by her hit with Isaac Hayes, "De Ja Vu."
Finding brand new success in a new era brought Ms. Warwick new opportunities including hosting the television special, Solid Gold.
Ms. Warwick continued her successful musical wave during the 80s. After the successful song "That's What Friends are For," Ms.Warwick gathered various artist for a charity to help raise funds for A.I.D.S awareness. After the event, Ms. Warwick faced criticism that very little money reached A.I.D.S victims after all entertainment fees were paid.
However, in spite of that controversy Ms.Warwick continues to be an avid supporter of A.I.D.S awareness and other philanthropic avenues.
After being estranged for many years, Ms. Warwick teamed back up with Bacharach and David releasing new songs that failed to live up to the popularity of her previous work.
In the mid-90s, Linda Georgian recruited Dionne Warwick to host infomercials with the Psychic Friends Network as their spokeswoman. Faced with many fraud and scam allegations, Dionne Warwick left the company once they filed Bankruptcy.
Dionne Warwick continues to travel around the world still performing her classic pop hits to millions all over.
For some reason not many people do musical tributes to her, yet, her style has influenced many big-name acts, both American and British alike. One fan named Luther Vandross covered several of her hits including, "A House is Not A Home."
Dionne Warwick's sound and style was the prototype for many girl groups who followed her. British bands watched her style, copying her performances and integrating what they learned into their acts.
She kept her nose pretty much clean and focused on her children and her career. She had many hits as well as many awards and accolades spanning over a 50-year career. Although her extremely talented cousin Whitney Houston was called the queen of pop, Dionne would have been the original queen of pop. In honor of Women's History Month, we salute and love you Ms. Dionne Warwick
*Dionne Warwick's last name was initially spelled 'Warrick' but later changed to 'Warwick' for her career. Many years later she added an "e" but then changed it back to Warwick.
*Dionne Warwick's family legacy includes her sister Dee Dee Warwick, her aunt Cissy Houston, and of course, cousin Whitney Houston.
* The Gospelaires (later called Sweet Inspirations) would provide background vocals for many artists including Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
*Dionne Warwick appeared on the Celebrity Apprentice 4 making it to the week 4.
*There is a school located in East Orange, New Jersey called the Dionne Warwick Institute that focuses on Economics and Entrepreneurship.