Dionne Warwick: A life and legacy of great music

A candid discussion with one of our era's legendary voices. Photo: PR photo

FLORIDA, November 24, 2012 — For over half a century, Dionne Warwick has been one of the world’s most notable and celebrated singers.

Fifty-six of her singles made the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1962 and 1998, a feat surpassed only by Aretha Franklin. Five Grammy Awards have been awarded to her, as well as seven nominations. Nonetheless, Warwick, who holds a doctorate in music education, has built a career around far more than singing alone 

She has been an actress, the host of Solid Gold, and currently serves as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. Despite the myriad of fads and trends, which the music industry is so famous for, Warwick managed to build a legacy that transcends these. Walk on By, I Say A Little Prayer, Heartbreaker, and too many other songs to mention captivate listeners today just as they did decades ago. 

Taking all of this into consideration, it is not at all surprising that retirement does not seem to be Warwick’s style. She maintains a rigorous concert schedule, and her fiftieth anniversary album was released earlier this year.  

“I took a poll of my friends, my peers, neighbors, people in the street and asked if they had a favorite recording of mine,” Warwick explains. “The poll of these people are the songs represented on the new album, NOW.” 

In a candid discussion, she tells us about why she thinks her songs have found enduring appeal, what inspired her to become a singer, whether or not she holds one of her songs in particularly high regard, and much more.


Joseph F. Cotto: Becoming established in the music industry is one of the most difficult feats imaginable. In your opinion, why have your songs found such enduring appeal?

Dionne Warwick: I have been blessed with some incredible compositions to record and perform and all of my songs have had the ability to grow as I and those who have supported this career of mine for these 50 yrs. have. 

Cotto: What inspired you to become a singer? 

Warwick: I come from a singing family and as is said, “the apple does not fall far from the tree”. 

Cotto: How did you get your start in the music industry?

Warwick: I started doing background work on recordings and doing demonstration records written by many composers, which is how I met Burt and Hal.

Cotto: After being discovered by Burt Bacharach, your career took off. Why do you believe that you found success so quickly? 

Warwick: It really was not as fast as you might think. It was step by step that I earned my way into the lives and hearts of people by giving them recordings that I grew to love and as I found my listening audience also grew to love. 

Cotto: During the 1960s, you were an international superstar. However, in the 1970s, with the exception of  Then Came You, your career slowed a bit. Do you think that there was any specific reason for this?

Warwick: During the time that my recording career seemed to be in a slump a music called disco came on the scene and literally took over radio stations as well as having radio stations created to play it which sort of negated my music as well as that of some of my peers. 

Cotto: Throughout the 1980s, you experienced a dramatic comeback. Why would you say that this was? 

Warwick: Simply GREAT SONGS! 

Cotto: Do you hold any one of your songs in particularly high regard? 

Warwick: I hold all of the songs that I have had the pleasure of recording and performing in high regard. 

Cotto: In 2002, you were nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. How have you found humanitarian work to be? 

Warwick: I was told by my grandfather who was a minister that we all were put here on earth to be of service to one another, and it is quite gratifying to know that if I am able to be of help to one that is not able to help themselves then I am fulfilling my obligation as a human being. 

Cotto: What has been the greatest challenge of your career? What has been its best reward? 

Warwick: I’ve never found anything that I considered a challenge, which in itself is the reward. 

Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, do you have any advice for the aspiring singers who might be reading this?

Warwick: I don’t give advice. 90% of the time nobody takes it anyway. I will give encouragement and if asked a question as to how, or why I did certain things and if I think this will help whomever is asking the question I will do this. Some might consider this to be advice I guess. 

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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