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Weekly Chat: Dionne Warwick Discusses Family, Career, Upcoming Performance in SWFL

Lee Herald Favicon 16An appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart is, to many, a crowning career achievement…the culmination of a lifetime of effort and struggle and diligence.

To find oneself, on that same Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, 69 times over a span of 36 years is, for the most part, unthinkable.  Selling over 100 million records and remaining significant for over five decades…wholly unimaginable.

The catalog of hits is encyclopedic and would be a burden to list and, frankly, make for awkward reading.

From humble gospel roots in East Orange, New Jersey to five-time Grammy winner is indicative of Warwick’s immense talent, incessant family love and support and a work ethic second to none.

Her achievements and eminence only amplified the greatness of a family of musical nobility.  Her aunt, Cissy Houston, niece Whitney Houston, sister De De Warwick and cousin Leontyne Price have made indelible marks on the music industry.

A passion for live performance motivates Warwick to continue to share her gift.  Gold-certified hits such as “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Déjà Vu,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and the profusion of chart-busters continue to fill the venues in which she performs.

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Ms. Warwick will be sharing her magnificent melodies with the audience at the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee on Friday, February 10th at 7:00 p.m.  She was gracious enough to take time out of her frenzied schedule to answer all of our questions.

Gary Levine:  The 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s were difficult times for African Americans across the nation.  New Jersey was, in no way, exempt from those horrific times.  I’m not certain if you had an opportunity to read “Suburban Erasure” written by Walter David Greason, but he discusses the racial inequities and difficulties pertaining to human rights in New Jersey.  How, if at all, did the social environment affect the start of your career?  Can you share some of your earliest recollections of growing up in Essex County…a region that ultimately exploded in riots in 1967?

Dionne Warwick: “During the 50’s and the early part of the 60’s I was still in school and as my career started taking off around 64/65 all that was going on was rather peaceful in the part of Jersey I lived.  My first exposure to discrimination was when I first started touring the southern part of the country.   I lived in East Orange and the riots that took place was in Newark not in our neighborhoods.”

Gary Levine:  East Orange, New Jersey, is one of those areas that, for reasons unknown, have produced a plethora of talented artists, professional athletes and notable people…especially in the music industry.  Just to name a limited number of artists who have gone on to become prominent in the music industry…Lauryn Hill, Janis Ian, Eddie Rabbitt, Queen Latifah, Slide Hampton, Gordon MacRae and, of course, yourself and Whitney Houston.  I believe that Cissy was born in Newark, but should be added to the list.  Is there something in the Essex County water that has spawned all of this inconceivable talent?

Dionne Warwick: “Let’s not forget Count Basie, my sister DeDe Warrick,  Sarah Vaughn,  the Isley Brothers just to continue your list.  Some say it may have been in the water,  I personally think God pointed his finger of talent on my beautiful state choosing those of us who happened to be fortunate to be in the path of that blessing.”

Gary Levine:  I’d be remiss if I failed to discuss your family…your parents, Mancel and Lee…your Aunt, Cissy, and Niece, Whitney.  I believe that it would take days to discuss and document the successes from The Drinkard Singers, The Gospelaires and the materials produced by Cissy, Whitney and yourself.  Nevertheless, would you share some anecdotes about the influence of gospel music…about being part of this inconceivably talented family?

Dionne Warwick: “I was fortunate to have been born into a supportive family with those Gospel roots.  Growing up among such musical talents gave me the ability and confidence to approach almost any musical style.  As my grandfather always said, ‘If you can think it, you can do it!'”

Gary Levine:  Burt Bacharach and Hal David…songwriting royalty…came into your life in the early 1960’s.  This had to have been an interesting, but curious, period for you.  Bacharach and David were churning out “pop” hits while Motown was spawning the most prodigious soul and R&B ever produced in this country…and, the British Invasion brought an unfamiliar genre of music as bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones came to the states.  And, here you are, with a gospel music background.  It seems as if your musical portfolio reaches into many different styles and categories.  How did you choose the musical path that you ultimately selected?  What attracted you to the different songs that you ultimately chose to record?

Dionne Warwick:  “Being fortunate to have run into Bacharach and David, and have them create beautiful melodies and words specifically for me is a path in music we collectively created giving us a liberty no one else was doing musically. We were the “triangle marriage” that worked!”

Gary Levine:  Can you tell us a bit about your work with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and as US Ambassador of Health?

Dionne Warwick:  “I was appointed the first and only Ambassador of Health for the United States by President Reagan in 1987 and held that post through the Bush and first year of the Clinton administration with my self- imposed mandate to work on the HIV/A.I.D.S. crisis.  I was appointed a Good Will Ambassador to the F.A.O. division of the United Nations in the 90’s finding both to be inter-related since they both dealt with health issues worldwide.   I am still very much involved with the fight against AIDS and still serve as an Ambassador of FAO.”

Gary Levine:  Last question…69 Billboard Hot 100 hits spanning a 36-year period…nearly two per year for almost four decades!  Collaborations with Stevie Wonder, The Spinners, Barry Gibb, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles…the list is both stellar and unparalleled.  Five Grammy awards.  Is there something that you have yet to do?  Something on the Dionne Warwick bucket list that keeps you up at night?

Dionne Warwick: “Simply put…the Oscar, Emmy, and the Tony….not necessarily in that order!”

Tickets for this event can be purchased by clicking here or by calling 800-514-3849.


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