Dionne Warwick is one of the towering figures of popular music. Raised in a family of gospel singers, she received extensive formal vocal training as a young girl. A trip for her 16th birthday to see Lena Horne perform at the Waldorf Astoria would prove to be a career-defining moment. Reflecting on this experience in 1996, Warwick recalled, “It was probably the greatest influence on me.” Soon after her debut in 1962, Warwick made an indelible impact by joining forces with iconic songwriting team Burt Bachrach and Hal David. Warwick’s vocal stylings exquisitely complemented the songwriters’ unique and idiosyncratic compositions, her voice as sophisticated as their staccato arrangements and time changes. Her vocal delivery was a defining sound of 1960s cool, with an effortless delivery and soulful tone. Songs like “Walk on By” and “I Say a Little Prayer for You” transported the listener to a different place.
After Bachrach and David’s split in 1973, Warwick saw continued success with other collaborations. In 1974, she teamed up with the Spinners on the number one smash hit “Then Came You,” a song that perfectly encapsulated the sound of disco in the mid-1970s. 1979 saw another huge hit with the Barry Manilow-produced “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” earning Warwick her third Best Female Pop Performance Grammy. In the 1980s and 1990s, she sang duets with Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, and Johnny Mathis, among others; the biggest of these – the 1987 number one hit “That’s What Friends Are For” – featured Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight.
More accolades and Grammys followed – six in total, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. Warwick continues to tour and recently became a Twitter sensation with her playful tweets directed at artists with “the” in their names. Witty exchanges with Chance the Rapper spawned an upcoming collaboration between the two and the Weeknd. Dionne Warwick’s innovation in song interpretation, combined with a seemingly flawless ability to stay relevant, have made her a mainstay in popular music history.
Nominee: Dionne Warwick
Cleveland, Ohio 44114