Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Dionne Warwick
February 6, 2012 10:00 AM
Dionne Warwick: "I never sing a song the same way twice."
By Patricia Sheridan Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At 71, five-time Grammy award winner and music legend Dionne Warwick is still on the move. To celebrate her golden anniversary in the music business, she has embarked on a world tour that will take her to six continents.
It is a long way from East Orange, N.J., where her roots in gospel music began at age 6. It was her collaboration with Burt Bacharach and Hal David that sent her star soaring onto the billboard charts with hits, including "Say a Little Prayer," "Walk On By" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," which earned her the first Grammy. Ms. Warwick, who is Whitney Houston's cousin, has appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" and "American Idol" and in the 1980s hosted "Solid Gold."
She will perform Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, at 8 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. Tickets: 724-836-8000.
What a career. You are celebrating 50 years in the music business.
Do you remember what that first blush of success felt like?
You know, I'll tell you something, the way they had me running around the world, I didn't have time to think about anything but what I was doing [laughing].
They still have you running around. What keeps you going?
Yes, we are in the throes of putting together the world tour. Being able to look into my audience and see the smiles on faces or somebody grab a hand or put an arm around a shoulder or sing [along] with me, that's what I get out of it.
Not many survive in your business for so long while avoiding the pitfalls. How did you do that?
I guess it was my surroundings. We think the same way, and we all feel the same way about being protective of who we are.
I read that you have a very strong faith. Was it ever shaken?
Never, never will. It's the way I was brought up. My grandfather was a minister. My mother and aunts and uncles all sang gospel music. I did, too. Belief in God has been and will always be something that is very strong within me.
Do you believe in destiny?
I believe there is a plan for all of us, and it is something we have no real control over.
Because we are coming up on Valentine's Day, do you have a romantic memory you care to share?
Oh my goodness, meeting my husband for the first time. Getting married. We all went through the puppy love stages in our teens, I'm sure, but I think my most romantic moment has to be meeting my husband and getting married.
You once said you could live with him and you could live without him, marrying then divorcing then marrying and divorcing him again.
Exactly. Those are the things we go through. The ages we were at the time our first marriage happened, it just was not what I thought I should be. A year later it was like, well, the guy loves me and I love him, so what am I thinking about?
So how do you define true love? You sing a lot about it.
I don't think you can. It's a feeling. It's a happening and it's different with every person, I think.
I read you have a very productive dream life. Is that true?
No, I do dream, but it's nothing out of the ordinary, I don't think. Whenever I was putting shows together I would and still do. I dream the show in my sleep. I see me doing it. It's quite interesting.
Well that's productive. You are working even in your sleep.
I guess it is in a way [laughing].
You appeared on "American Idol" and also had a successful stint as the host of "Solid Gold." While they are different, do you think shows like that help young artists?
I think it's a healthy situation, and it's nothing new. I can remember as a child watching shows like the "Arthur Godfrey Show" and "Ted Mack Amateur Hour." That's where I saw for the very first time Gladys Knight. So the shows we are watching today, with the competition -- which I think is healthy -- there is nothing new about them. They are just updated.
What comes around goes around.
Always. Nothing is new [laughing].
When you are singing certain lyrics on stage -- ones you have done thousands of times -- do they trigger memories of particular people or times or places?
Occasionally, yes. I never sing a song the same way twice, and that is something that I think is an innate ability. But, yeah, when I do "San Jose" it's not that I think of San Jose, the place itself, but I look down in the audience and I see somebody singing it with me that is the coup de grace.
You have said "San Jose" was not your favorite. You thought the lyrics were silly?
I thought singing about a place was fine, but the wo, wo, wo, I thought, "Why would he write something like 'Wo, wo, wo?' " That's what he wrote, and I did not want to record it, but I loved Hal so very much, and he asked, "Please do this song." I don't know criteria for a hit record because that was my first hit record and my first gold record.
Do you have other goals to reach, or are you happy to just keep going?
Well, I still have the Oscar, the Emmy and the Tony to receive. Not necessarily in that order, but I will be working my way toward those.
You have so many side projects going. What is the progress on the African-American history book?
We are still working on that. I can't tell you how much I've learned and how much history there is for everyone to know and learn. This is a book that eventually will be finished and hopefully will be in our school systems. I was required in school to carry around a world history book and an American history book, which did not include African-Americans that much, so I think it is time for people to know who and what we have contributed and who we are.
Speaking of school, why did you feel it was necessary to go back to get your master's in music?
You know, I can only look at so much of the boob tube and I can only do so much needlepoint, and my education has always been something very near and dear to my heart. At that time, I was singing Bacharach melodies, and you almost needed a degree to sing those melodies. You think about songs like "Promises, Promises." I don't think anyone else in the world has recorded it but me -- of course, the cast.
Do you ever look back and say "Wow, I did all that?"
I don't have time [laughing].
Any regrets about appearing on "Celebrity Apprentice"?
Not at all. It was an experience, believe me. That is the only word I can come up with, and the only reason I did decide to do it was because it is a charity-based show. The only regret I have was firing myself [laughing], and I did not stay long enough to win money for my charity. But then I raised money outside of "Celebrity Apprentice" for The Hunger Project.
Good luck on your world tour.
We are going to do six continents. Basically it's my way of saying thank you for being supportive of a 50-year career.