Dionne Warwick

Biography

Dionne Warwick was born as Marie Dionne Warrick on December 12th, 1940. She was born in East Orange, New Jersey. Dionne c is the daughter of a record promoter and gospel group manager and performer, so she group up with a gospel musical background as a child. Her mother managed a gospel choir called The Drinkard Singers and her father was a gospel record promoter. Dionne was singing in the church at a very young age. She would play the piano for her mothers gospel choir, The Drinkard Singers, and often times found herself singing in place of absent adult members. As a teenager, she formed her own group called Gospelaires. This group included her, her sister, Dee Dee, and her aunt Cissy Houston. 

When Dionne finished high school in 1959, she pursued her passion for singing in Hartford, Connecticut at the Hartt College of Music. Additionally, she landed a job with her group singing back up vocals for recording sessions in New York City. One day, during one of her sessions, she met Burt Bacharach. Burt Bacharach hired Dionne to record demos featuring songs that were written by Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. A record executive heard Dionne’s demo and liked it a great deal that she received her own record deal. 

Dionne has two songs named David and Damon Elliot from her marriage to William David Elliot, an actor and musician. She has worked with each of her sons on numerous projects over the years. 

Musical Development

Warwick released her first ever single, “Don’t Make Me Over” in 1962. It was the top hit the following year after her release. There was an accidental typo on the record when it was published. The error stated “Dionne Warwick” instead of “Dionne Warrick”. Dionne decided to keep the new last name, Warwick. In 1964, Warwick had two singles that were on the Top 10 charts. These singles were “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “Walk On By”, which was her first number one hit for the R&B genre. Both of these singles were penned by Bacharach and David. 

Warwick received many more hits, including the many that were written by Bacharach and David. As the 1960’s progressed, Dionne’s song “Message to Michael” made it to the Top 10 charts in 1966 and her version of “I Say a Little Prayer” climbed to the number 4 spot the following year. She found great success with her contributions in movie soundtracks as well. The theme song for the film “Alfie” in 1967 that starred Michael Caine was a great success for Dionne Warwick. Additionally, “Valley of the Dolls” in 1968 was also a great success. 

Warwick’s trademark tune “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” earned Dionne her very first Grammy Award. Within the same year, she made history as being the first African-American woman to perform for Queen Elizabeth II in England. In the 1990’s, Dionne began to encounter some challenges. During this time it was revealed that she had a claim against her for unpaid taxes. She was arrested in 2002, for possession of marijuana. Six years later, her sister, Dee Dee, passed away and her cousin, Whitney Houston passed away four years after her sister’s death. Despite the unfortunate events, Warwick continued to perform and record new music. 

Warwick celebrated her 50th year in music with her album “Now” in 2012. The album features songs written by David and Bacharach. In March of 2013, Dionne’s personal life overshadowed her musical talents. She made the headlines of declaring she was experiencing bankruptcy. It was said that she owed $10 million in unpaid taxes, but she later corrected that statement with the correct claimed amount owed. 

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Historical Significance

Warwick is not just known for her musical influence, but she has made a huge impact within the community. She has been recognized and honored for raising millions of dollars towards music eduction. Her impact and efforts were widely recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 where he appointed her the first United States Ambassador of Health. Additionally, in 2002, she served as Global Ambassador for Health and Ambassador for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She continues to serve as the Ambassador today. Third, she was named in her honor by a New Jersey school for her accomplishments and support of eduction – The Dionne Warwick Institute for Economics and Entrepreneurship. By the age of 25 years, Dionne Warwick was a pop trailblazer. Prior to this she achieved a feature for a black female artist on a debut single called “Don’t Make Me Over” which was a hit. Dionne’s vocal artistry and challenging orchestrations of her songwriters, Bacharach and David, were appreciated and heard on her albums. Dionne’s look and sound defied the expectations of black pop singers in the 19602. She was urbane and so was her music. Dionne was sophisticated and soulful. Her music was free of theatrics and histrionics. Warwick’s approach to be elegant with pop laid the foundation for adult contemporary. She would go on to allow Karen Carpenter, Barry Manilow and Melissa Manchester to be known for their musical styles – adult contemporary. In 1971, Warwick left Scepter Records and signed a deal with Warner Bros, a major-label company. In the 1980s she was at the top of the adult contemporary charts with her song “No Night So Long”.  Later down the road, she went separate ways with Arista Records and released her first collection of holiday standards called “My Favorite Time of the Year” in 2004. In 2019, she returned with her album “She’s Back”, her 36th studio album. This was produced by her son Damon Elliott. This new album marked her awaited return back to soul music. 

Musical Style

Dionne is an American Pop and Rhythm and Blues (R&B) singer who is known for her soulful sound. This earned her a widespread appeal across the country. 

Who Inspired Dionne Warwick Musically?

Dionne Warwick is inspired by The Shirelles, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Bessie Smith, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Burt Bacharach, James Cleveland, The Soul Stirrers, Marlene Dietrich and a few other notable artists. 

Who Does Dionne Inspire Musically?

Through Dionne Warwick’s notable achievements, musical history, and influence on others, she has has inspired many. Some of those who follow after her work and music are Donna Summer, Betty Wright, Laura Nyro, Anita Baker, Sade, Alicia Keys, Natalie Prass, Cyndi Lauper, The Spinners, Whitney Houson, Mariah Carey, Tasmin Archer, Chic, Carpenters, Billy Joel, Bee Gees, Jeffrey Osborne, Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson and many more. 

Critique

Dionne Warwick is an African-American woman, that I personally believe has made a great impact on her musical genre – Rhythm and Blues (R&B) and American Pop. From the time she was a little girl, she has developed in to such an amazing woman and singer. She is a renowned singer across the country and has been awarded overall for having many Top 10 hits. She definitely has made a mark in her career. 

Dionne has also made a major impact in her community. She has advocated for others through charitable work which shows good citizenship as well as her desire to help and be of assistance to others. I find these acts of kindness to speak strongly on her character because advocating for others in itself is an empowering, uplifting and powerful act of service. She supported and campaigned for charities pertaining to AIDS as well as other charities such as The Starlight Foundation, children’s hospitals, world hunger, disaster relief and music education. These were just a few of the campaigns and charities she cherished and valued. I loved reading about the community service projects that were important to her. Dionne Warwick is a strong woman who will continue to be remembered for her musical influence as well as community influence for many individuals around the world, in particular black women and men. She continues to show great leadership skills and embodies leadership qualities. I like Dionne Warwick because she has empowered many and I share similar characteristics with her. 

Sources

By Peyton Bolling

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Peyton Bolling

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