Icon Index: Dionne Warwick Is A Woman of Action
This feature is in the December '22 "The Creators" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Dionne Warwick PHOTO BY DAVID VANCE/COURTESY OF DIONNE WARWICK
Dionne Warwick doesn’t view herself as an icon. “I personally feel that is the opinion of people generally. I don’t think anyone can consider themselves an icon,” she explains.
Her icons are “my mentors, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Diahann Carroll, Marlene Dietrich. These ladies embraced me and basically gave me the route that I was to travel as an entertainer and as a female, Black female at that.”
When it comes to the great Ms. Warwick, her numbers are outstanding. She is the second-most-charted female vocalist between 1955 and 1999, with 56 of her singles, including 12 Top 10s, making the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1988, and ranks in the top 100 of Billboard Hot 100’s Greatest Artists of All Time. On top of that, she has won five Grammys, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and holds the distinction of being the first female artist to win in two categories for Best Pop and Best R&B Vocal Performance in 1980.
CNN’s Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over will highlight the icon’s career spanning six decades. PHOTO BY DAVID VANCE/COURTESY OF DIONNE WARWICK
These numbers, however, are not at the heart of her CNN documentary Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over (which premiered on Jan. 1). Instead, her as a person and artist is what shines through most. Her journey includes civil rights, navigating the industry as a woman, the HIV/AIDS crisis and challenges to misogyny in rap music, among others. Through the documentary, she says, “the real truth is now being given to you.”
In addition to the archival footage showing her elegance and grace, along with her versatility as the artist behind such iconic hits as “Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” civil rights fighter and humanitarian, those chiming in to celebrate her are a who’s who of the music industry that include Alicia Keys, Smokey Robinson, Elton John, Snoop Dogg, Burt Bacharach, Bill Clinton, Berry Gordy and Gladys Knight.
“I was truly surprised by some of the things my friends and/or fellow entertainers had to say about me,” she shares, adding that it “is nice to know they feel that I’ve always been Dionne [because] really the objective is to be who you are.”
Who she is as a mother is shown through the love and admiration her two sons Damon and David Elliott display in the doc. She even admits that she initially didn’t see the appeal of some of her biggest hits like “Heartbreaker.” And she also shares her struggles as a single mother, her bankruptcy, her stint with the Psychic Friends Network and her close connection to her cousin Whitney Houston.
Snoop Dogg’s recollection of him, Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur being summoned to her house for the misogyny in their music shows that Warwick is a woman of action. The same goes for her ability to bring national attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“I don’t do things for recognition,” she says. “I do things that I feel I can be of service to and towards. And it’s not necessary for me to carry a placard or march or anything of that nature. I don’t have to be seen or heard. I just do it if I truly believe in it.”