Heroes: Dionne Warwick
The R&B legend speaks to V about her return to gospel, her Las Vegas residency, and lets us marvel at how she keeps on keeping on
“Don’t make me over / Now that you know how I adore you,” -“Don’t Make Me Over”
When Dionne Warwick released her debut solo single, “Don’t Make Me Over” in 1962, despite a decade-long career singing either in a group or providing background vocals, no one could anticipate the storybook musical era that would begin.
From the ‘60s to the ‘80s, Warwick was untouchable, setting the standard for what a “hit” really meant. She had a constant presence on charts Stateside and internationally. A household name in the truest sense, the world really couldn’t get enough of her stories or her voice, powerful and shaky in the same breath, anguished and devotional in the same lyric, swaying through each note with an ease that belies a life spent with musical titans.
But even beyond that stage, what keeps Warwick going is the fact that she wants to. If 15-year-old activists get you wondering where your life went, how would you feel about an 81-year-old icon in the opening stages of a Las Vegas residency and a brand-new album, with a documentary about her storied life on the horizon?
“I’ve performed all over the world and what excites me is every moment is different, day by day,” Warwick says to V as she prepares for her residency. “An Intimate Evening with Ms Dionne Warwick” is exactly what it sounds like, in her own words, “low-key but full of great music.”
If that part of her story isn’t enough, there’s her new documentary, titled after her debut single, that will show the world that it wasn’t just her music that made her a global icon. “My career launched during the civil rights movement, and I was very involved in desegregation in the U.S. During the rise of the AIDS epidemic, I also served as the U.S. Ambassador of Health under two presidents, educating folks about the disease and the need for a cure. So I have seen it all.”
Plus, she’s on the cusp of releasing a new gospel album, her first since her work with the Drinkard Singers, a gospel group composed of several Warwick family members. “I bring experience to every record I make and put that into play when I sing,” she says. “I want to keep the themes a surprise, but what I will say is, the message throughout the album is giving praise to God.”
Currently nominated as an inductee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the middle of a world tour, Warwick hasn’t slowed down one bit. But then again, why would she? “Music is what keeps me going; it’s my driving force.” For the R&B pioneer, it’s about saying a little prayer and just keeping on.
The lyrics from Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” hold just as true in 2022 as they did in 1962. Except now, we know just how much she adores us. Over six decades, hit after hit after hit, sold-out worldwide concerts, several roles on the screen, and a lifetime of activism, we sure do know it. And sure enough, she says it herself.
“I’ll be on your side forever more / That’s what friends are for,” -“That’s What Friends Are For”