Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 6, 1999

Dionne Warwick wants to do a
Broadway show next year.

A soul for song

By Tim Ryan


There was no choice with that voice but music.

"I came from a singing family so it was automatic that 'Dionne would sing,' " Dionne Warwick says in a telephone interview from her New Jersey home. "I thought I might teach music but this is a lot better than sitting in a classroom all day."

On Saturday, Warwick sings Burt Bacharach's greatest hits with the Honolulu Symphony Pops Orchestra at the Waikiki Shell.

One of the most recognizable personalities and voices in music since the early '60s, Warwick continues to enjoy a successful and diverse career in music and on television.

So what's left?

"I want to do a Broadway show, and I'm preparing one for the fall of 2000," she said a bit guardedly.

"Dionne sings Dionne" will tell Warwick's story through her music, based on a trilogy of new CDs, one of which has been released.

"Broadway is a very special thing for me," she said. "I always figured that when I decided to do Broadway it would have to be tailor made and sure fire. You only get one chance at that ... and if you fail, that's it.

"The last thing I want next to my name is a big 'F.' "

Failure has never been a word associated with Warwick's craft. Her prowess with love songs has resulted in two No. 1 singles among 12 Top 10 hits, and 31 Top 40 singles, including several which will forever be associated with her: "Walk On By," "Message to Michael," "I Say A Little Prayer," "This Girl's In Love With You" and the Grammy-winning "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"

Warwick earned seven Top 40 singles in the '80s alone, including collaborations with Luther Vandross, Johnny Mathis and Jeffrey Osborne. The grand total? One platinum album, five gold albums and five Grammy Awards.

"We've been blessed," Warwick says, almost in a whisper.

When she says "we," Warwick means songwriters Hal David and Burt Bacharach, who wrote most of her hits. "I was pretty much discovered by Burt, who was also relatively unknown," she said.

Warwick began her career doing background sessions in New York pop and R&B studios. She signed her first record deal in 1962, debuting with the hit "Don't Make Me Over," written and produced by Bacharach and David.

Bacharach's sculpted compositions were the ideal backdrop for Warwick's light phrasing, delicate almost to the point of vulnerability.

"We became known in the industry as the triangle marriage that worked," she said, laughing. "But we never assumed we always would have a hit. We waited with baited breath because not one song took less than six weeks before people got into it."

Vulnerable, smooth and easy, Warwick's trademarks.

"Easy!" she says, laughing incredulously. "I enjoy singing, but it takes a lot, a lot of work. If it sounds easy, I guess it's because I enjoy it so much."

As Warwick's songwriters moved closer to mainstream, she embraced a safer but classier approach with the successful records: "I Say A Little Prayer" in 1967, and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" in 1968.

Unlike many artists with signature songs, Warwick has no problem selecting her favorite: "The Windows of the World."

"It was during the Vietnam war and was written by Hal when we really needed to hear these words," she said. "It brought attention that as a people we needed to get our stuff together. Unfortunately, even now in '99 we need to hear it again."

Surviving in an ever-changing business has made Warwick cautious, not callous.

"The (record) industry today is really being run by very young people; they're babies; they could be my children," Warwick said. "They say 'Dionne who'?"

Her description of some news media isn't as general.

"Vultures with no regard for artistry," she said. "They don't take time to think about what they're doing to people. It's all about being nasty without being honest ... it puzzles me how human beings - and I use the word loosely - can get so much joy about others' anguish."

Then Warwick bursts out laughing.

"I just say to myself, 'As long they spell your name right.' I won't dignify what I know is not true. And I've outlasted people stupid enough to have to make their living writing lies.

"I'm still here baby."

Dionne Warwick

Bullet In concert: 7 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Venue: Waikiki Shell
Bullet Program: Greatest hits of Burt Bacharach, with special guest Danny Counch; Matt Catinbug conducting
Bullet Tickets: $17.50-$40
Bullet Call: 538-8863

Warwick's hits

Dionne Warwick's catalog of hit songs reflects her distinctive way of handling love songs:

Bullet Walk On By
Bullet Message to Michael
Bullet I Say A Little Prayer
Bullet This Girl's In Love With You
Bullet Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
(Grammy winner)
Bullet Then Came You with The Spinners
Bullet That's What Friends Are For with Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Elton John (Grammy winner )
Bullet I'll Never Fall In Love Again
Bullet Alfie
Bullet Anyone Who Had A Heart
Bullet Heartbreakers
Bullet I'll Never Love That Way Again
(Grammy winner)

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