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Boomers Love Dionne Warwick

When the song, Anyone Who Had a Heart, found its way into Mister Boomer’s internal Morning Jukebox — that seemingly random playing in his head of tunes from the boomer era when he wakes on most mornings (see Music Flashbacks: A Sign of an Aging Boomer? and Mister Boomer’s Morning Jukebox Update) — he realized he didn’t know much about Dionne Warwick other than the fact that she was a fixture on the charts throughout the 1960s. Mister B knew he needed to have a closer look at her career.

Not a boomer herself, Dionne Warrick was born in 1940. It was through a misspelling of her name on her first single that she came to embrace the name we know, and she continues to use it in her professional life. She began as a gospel singer, but in the 1960s crossed over into multiple genres, including soul, R&B and easy listening.

Her association with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David is legendary. Her decade-long partnership began when she was singing backup in a recording session for The Drifters. The tune being recorded, Mexican Divorce, was written by Bacharach. He was taken with her voice and asked her if she would record some demos with him. Bacharach signed Warwick to his production company, where she recorded a few demos that became hits for other stars, including Make It Easy on Yourself. Bacharach and David in turn signed on with Scepter Records in 1962. The owner of Scepter Records, Florence Greenberg, heard Warwick sing on Bacharach’s demo of It’s Love That Really Counts. The story goes that she said, “Forget the song, sign the girl.” (The song was given to The Shirelles as a B-side).

Her first single, written and produced by Bacharach and David and released by Scepter in 1962, was Don’t Make Me Over. It started out as the B-side to I Smiled Yesterday, but got more airplay than the A-side. By January 1963, the song peaked at #5 on the R&B charts and the team of Warwick/Bacharach/David was off to a flying start.

Anyone Who Had a Heart, the song recently playing in Mister B’s head one morning, was released as a single in 1963 and became the title track of her second album in 1964. The song was her first Top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. Warwick’s second Top 10 hit of the same year was Walk On By, which hit #1 on the R&B charts. She had four hits in 1964 alone. The team — Warwick’s voice, Bacharach’s music and David’s lyrics — went on to have more than a dozen hits in the 1960s.

From 1963 to 1971, Warwick sold an estimated 35 million albums and singles, all but one written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In 1968, the B-side of I Say A Little Prayer was (Theme From) Valley of the Dolls, intended for the movie of the same name. The song was written by André and Dory Previn for the film. Judy Garland had been hired to sing the song for the soundtrack, but was fired. When the movie became a hit, Warwick’s version of the the song gave her a double-sided hit. Other movie and Broadway songs written by Bacharach and David gave Warwick more hits, notably Alfie in 1966 and the Broadway musical Promises, Promises (1968), garnered Warwick two hits in addition to the title song, I Say A Little Prayer (1967) and I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1969).

Riding the wave of popularity, Warwick was given her first TV special by CBS on September 17, 1969. Of course, Burt Bacharach was a guest star, but also appearing were Glen Campbell and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The golden team moved from Scepter to Warner Bros. Records in 1971, awarding Warwick the largest contract for a female singer up to that time — $5 million. But she had a falling out with her songwriters in 1972. First Bacharach and David ended their association with Warwick, then with each other. Warwick, faced with breach of contract lawsuits by Warner Bros., sued the songwriting team for $5.5 million. The suit was ultimately settled out of court in 1979. After the dissolution, Warwick struggled to get on the charts until Then Came You (1974), which she recorded with The Spinners.

She had a few modest hits in the the 1970s, most notably I’ll Never Love This Way Again in 1979, when she moved from Warner Bros. to Arista Records. In 1985 she once again became a household name when she sang That’s What Friends are For with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder. It was a song recorded to benefit an AIDS charity. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Between 1962 and 1998, Warwick had 56 songs make it to the Billboard Top 100.

Boomers will recall her appearances on TV, hosting Solid Gold in the ’80s and as a spokesperson for the Psychic Friends Network in the ’90s. Despite making millions, she filed for bankruptcy in 2013, owing around $10 million in business taxes to the IRS and State of California.

Mister Boomer was especially partial to the Bacharach/David songs by Dionne Warwick, and the earliest ones at that. Maybe that is why Anyone Who Had a Heart popped into his head. His mother enjoyed them all, and his brother, the prime buyer of 45s in the family, bought several of her singles.

Take a look at some of the hit singles Dionne Warwick had in the 1960s with Burt Bacharach and Hal David:

Don’t Make Me Over — 1962, her first single
Anyone Who Had a Heart — 1963
What the World Needs Now — 1963
Walk on By — 1964
You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) — 1964
What the World Needs Now — 1966; Warwick originally turned the song down and it was recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1965. Warwick recorded it a year later.
Message to Michael — 1966
I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself — recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1964, Warwick’s version hit in 1966
I Say a Little Prayer — 1967
Do You Know the Way to San Jose? — 1968
(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me — was a B-side in 1968
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again — 1969
Make It Easy on Yourself — 1970; it is said this was the song that started it all for Warwick. She sang it as part of the demos she recorded with Bacharach in 1962, but Jerry Butler released it that year when Scepter Records’ president, Florence Greenberg, gave him the Bacharach song instead of her. Feeling slighted, she went to Bacharach and David looking for support. The story goes that she shouted, “Don’t make me over, man!” at the duo, meaning she wanted a chance to sing and not be swept aside. Hal David grabbed the phrase and wrote, Don’t Make Me Over, for her, the first hit she had.

Despite her musical struggles after her split with Bacharach and David, and subsequent personal and financial troubles, she is still out there performing and recording. Mister Boomer suggests you take a look at her discography from the 1960s. It was without a doubt the decade where Warwick struck solid gold with audiences singing the music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

What is your favorite Dionne Warwick song, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Music and have No Comments