Over an illustrious career that has spanned close to four decades, Dionne Warwick has established herself as an international household name. Her reputation as a hitmaker has been firmly etched into public consciousness, thanks to the nearly sixty records that have made the charts since "Don't Make Me Over" began its fateful climb up the charts in the early months of 1963. As a performer, she has charmed and entertained audiences quite literally on every continent, amassing a global audience from Rome to Rio, from London to Lagos and from Manhattan to Madrid. And while she has been the subject of countless cover stories and feature articles, there are a few important "firsts" that make Dionne Warwick a true pioneer. You may not know that as the recipient of her first of five Grammy Awards in 1968 (for the classics "Do You Know The Way To San Jose'", Dionne became the first black solo female artist of her generation to win the prestigious award for "Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance" a feat only previously accomplished by one of her own African-American musical "she-roes", the late Ella Fitzgerald. Other black female recording artists certainly racked up their share of crossover pop and R&B hits in the '60s but Dionne Warwick was the first such artist to rack up a dozen consecutive Top 100 hit singles from 1963-1966, preceding the mainstream success of some of her musical peers.
By making her debut performance--and introduced by the legendary Marlene Dietrich--at The Olympia Theater in Paris in 1963, Dionne also became the first black female pop and soul singer to achieve international stardom. As she was establishing herself as a major force in American contemporary music, she was simultaneously winning over audiences throughout Europe through early hits like "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and "Walk On By". She was also the first black female performer to appear before the Queen of England at the Royal Command Performance in 1968 and since that time, Dionne has performed before numerous kings, queens, presidents and heads of state the world over.
Her recordings of tunes like "A House Is Not A Home", "Alfie" "(Theme from)The Valley Of The Dolls", "The April Fools" also made Dionne Warwick a pioneer as one of the first female artists to popularize classic movie themes. And, as all diehard fans know, Dionne made her film debut in 1968 in the movie "Slaves" making her the first contemporary black female recording artist to do so, once again following in the footsteps of one of her "she-roes", the inimitable Lena Horne.
In recent years, Dionne's pioneering efforts have focused on leading the music industry in the fight against AIDS; her Grammy-winning chartopping single "That's What Friends Are For" was the tip of the iceberg, raising literally millions of dollars for AIDS research. Throughout the world, Dionne has devoted countless hours to a wide range of humanitarian causes, serving as the U.S. Ambassador for Health throughout the Eighties. Continuing her work as a socially conscious and concerned global citizen in the Nineties, Dionne is spearheading the long overdue development and production of a history book that will finally detail Africa and African-American history for use in schools, libraries and bookstores throughout the world.
As the new millennium approaches, with a legacy of accomplishments and achievements, Dionne Warwick is celebrating her 35th year as a chartmaker with a brand new album, a timely reminder of the kind of music that first brought fame and acclaim to a young lady from East Orange, New Jersey who was barely out of her teens when she had her first hit record. Entitled Dionne Sings Dionne, this fine collection is her first album for River North Records, a division of Platinum Entertainment, distributed by PolyGram. "I decided it was time to put 'me' back into my records", she smiles. "I'm finally with a record company that wants nothing other than Dionne to be Dionne. We're taking first some of the obvious songs from my early years and coupling them with the 'hidden gems' that people may not know ormay have forgotten, some songs that I have loved since I first recorded them, as well as recording some great new compositions being written specifically for me." Selecting the music for Dionne Sings Dionne was a labor of love for the famed entertainer. "I made calls to friends, people in the industry, radio DJ's and so on and asked everyone to list their top twenty favorite tunes I've recorded. I asked them to exclude the obvious hits and the results were surprising -- so many people picked the same songs!" In addition to revisiting some of her classics hits like "Walk On By," "I Say A Little Prayer" (which was featured in the 1996 hit movie "My Best Friend's Wedding") and "Anyone Who Had A Heart," the new album will also include songs like "In The Land of Make Believe," "The Last One To Be Loved" and "Be Aware," tracks on early LPs all penned by the legendary team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David who masterminded all of Dionne's hits from 1963 to 1971. "I was really elated by the choices people made," Dionne says. "So many of these songs were like buried treasure, tunes that were tucked away on my albums for Scepter and Warner Brothers. I'm thrilled that I can now re-introduce them to my audiences as well as presenting them to many people for the first time."
Captivating audiences with music tailor-made for her unique, distinctive vocal style is something that Dionne Warwick has been doing since Burt Bacharach first heard back in 1960. Before she ever made it to the studio, Dionne had been singing since her childhood days in East Orange, initially in church and occasionally a soloist and fill-in voice for the renowned Drinkard Singers which consisted of members of her family, managed by her mother. During her teens, Dionne and sister Dee Dee startedtheir own gospel group, The Gospelaires and it was while visiting The Drinkard Singers at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem that Dionne got her first opportunity to sing on a background session for saxophonist Sam "The Man" Taylor. Some thirty-eight years later, The Apollo Theater paid tribute to Dionne in a special event in February 1998 noting her constant support for the venue and her work as a musical trailblazer.
While attending The Hartt College of Music, Dionne began doing regular session work in New York, singing behind many of the biggest stars of the '60s including Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Chuck Jackson andSolomon Burke, to name a few. Once composer, arranger and producer Bacharach heard her while doing a session for The Drifters, he asked her to sing on demos of songs he was writing with new partner Hal David. In 1962, Bacharach & David presented one such demo to Scepter Records: the label president Florence Greenberg did not want the song but wanted the voice and Dionne began a hit-filled twelve-year association with the New York label.
In all, Dionne, Burt & Hal racked up thirty hit singles and close to twenty best-selling albums during their first decade of gold. Tunes like "Do You Know The Way To San Jose'", "Message To Michael", "This Girl's In Love With You", "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and "Reach Out For Me" established Dionne Warwick as a consummate artist and performer. Known as the artist who "bridged the gap", Dionne's music transcended race, culture and musical boundaries, a soulful blend of pop, gospel and R&B.
In 1970, Dionne received her second Grammy Award for the best-selling album, "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and she began her second decade of hits by signing with Warner Brothers Records. Working with top producers like Thom Bell, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jerry Ragavoy, Steve Barri and Michael Omartian, Dionne recorded half-a-dozen albums. In 1974, she hit the top of the charts for the first time with "Then Came You", a million-selling duet with The Spinners and three years later, she teamed up with Isaac Hayes for the highly successful "A Man And A Woman" world tour.
In 1976, fresh from earning a Master's Degree in Music from her alma mater, The Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, Dionne signed with Arista Records, beginning a third decade of hitmaking with the album "Dionne". Produced by labelmate Barry Manilow, the album included back-to-back hits "I'll Never Love This Way Agan" and "Deja Vu", which both earned Grammy Awards, making Dionne the first female artist to win both Best Female Pop and Best Female R&B Performance Awards, and giving her a first platinum album. Hot on the heels of her renewed success, Dionne began her first stint as host for the highly successful television show "Solid Gold".
Dionne's tenure with Arista was marked by further milestones: her 1982 album "Heartbreaker", co-produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees became an international chartopper, and in 1985, Dionne reunited with producer Burt Bacharach and teamed up with longtime friends Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John to record the classic "That's What Friends Are For", with profits donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR). In 1990 she joined forces with a number of her labelmates to raise over $2.5 million for various AIDS organizations at the star-studded "That's What Friends Are For" benefit at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Dionne's album "Friends" achieved gold status and throughout the Eighties, Dionne collaborated with many of her musical peers including Johnny Mathis, Smokey Robinson, Luther Vandross and others. Working with Stevie Wonder, Dionne was the music coordinator for the film and Academy Award winning soundtrack The Woman In Red. She was one of the key participants in the all-star charity single "We Are The World" and performed at "Live Aid" in 1984.
In addition to co-hosting and helping to launch "The Soul Train Music Awards, she also starred in her own show, "Dionne And Friends" and was co-executive producer of "Celebrate The Soul of American Music" giving honor and recognition to many of her fellow musical pioneers. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Dionne has toured extensively with Burt Bacharach, winning rave reviews from fans, press and alike for a show that reinforces the timeless musical legacy the team of Bacharach, David & Warwick created. Her recent musical achievements have included performances as part of the "National Symphony With The Divas", and in Tokyo, with The National Opera Company of Japan --yes, Dionne even sings classical music.
Known for her entrepreneurial spirit, Dionne's recent activities have included the creation of Carr/Todd/Warwick Productions Inc., geared to produce television and film projects and, for the past fifteen years, the Dionne Warwick Design Group, Inc. With partner Bruce Garrick, Dionne has been responsible for creating numerous international projects ranging from private estates to world class hotels which she notes are "all affordable!"
One of Dionne's special projects has been the design of her own home in Brazil where she now resides, dividing her time equally between Brazil and the U.S.A. Showcasing her long-term love affair with the people and music of Brazil, Dionne's final album for Arista was the critically-acclaimed "Aquarela Do Brazil" (Watercolors of Brazil), released in 1994.
The recipient of countless awards, Dionne's status as a musical icon and humanitarian is legendary. With her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she continues to work tirelessly with various organizations dedicated to empowering and inspiring others: in 1997, she was awarded the "Luminary Award" by the American Society of Young Musicians and the same year she joined General Colin Powell incelebrating the tenth anniversary of the "Best Friends" Program, an abstinence and character-building program for young women. It came as no surprise to her friends and family that Dionne's alma mater, the Lincoln Elementary School in East Orange, New Jersey honored her by renaming it "The Dionne Warwick Institute of Economics andEntrepreneurship". Displaying her own business skills, Dionne plans to reactivate her skin care regimen and fragrance in 1998.
In early 1998, Dionne was given the Chairman's Award for Sustained Creative Achievement NARM (The National Association of Record Merchandisers) and as she looks forward to another decade of great music, Dionne Warwick says she still has some personal goals. With a warm smile, she reflects that she has always remembered the words of wisdom imparted by her grandfather who told her many years ago, "If you can think if, you can do it!" With a life filled with accomplishments and achievement, Dionne Warwick can proudly say she has and will continue to adhere to this wisdom.