One night at the now defunct Roseland Ballroom in New York City, I was invited to an event produced by David Guest to sing background for a star-studded roster of amazing recording artists. Living legend Dionne Warwick was one of them.
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over covers her fascinating six-decade career in music and activism within the Black and LGBTQ communities.
With a voice that is both delicate and impassioned she is often synonymous with award-winning composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David with their collaborative hits like “Walk On By,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”
Did you know her career started by winning Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre or that she’s the first African-American to win the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance with over 100 million records sold? I didn’t either. I also didn’t know she was affiliated with Snoop Dogg, who shares a story about being invited to Warwick’s house for donuts at 7am, with a crew of fellow rappers in tow encouraging them to “do better.”
But who can forget, the 1985 version of “That’s What Friends Are For,” with fellow artists Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John as they raised over $3 million for AIDS research – a cause she has passionately continues championed for even now. She’s even recently taken to Twitter and garnered a massive following of old and new fans along the way. Not bad for someone, who was fodder for many a sketch comedy show when she was seen as the face of all those Psychic Friends Network infomercials back in the day.
Fans will get a glimpse into Warwick herself – Charismatic, outspoken, and stylish as she fondly looks back on her New Jersey roots singing in church, touring the South with Sam Cooke at the height of Jim Crow and fighting back against racist humiliation on a daily basis. Not to mention, all those Bacharach and David hits taking her to Europe, where she discovered haute couture with Marlene Dietrich and how her music bridged cultural divides.
Warwick’s testimonies are fabulously complemented with tales from Bacharach, Gladys Knight , Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, Bill Clinton, Carlos Santana, and Warwick’s cousin, the late Whitney Houston.
It’s always nice to learn that those whose music we admire are human beings that live synonymously with their lyrics they sing. Dionne Warwick represents the best of us in every since of the word and it’s nice to see her finally her due.