There’s been a question circulating the world these days and it goes something like this: Who is the most universally beloved person today? Who is that person we can all agree on that we like? In a fractured, at times-even war-torn world, that can be a hard question to answer. But an obvious choice to consider is the one and only Dionne Warwick.
The 81-year-old New Jersey-born Warwick has earned a resurgence in popular culture recently with her chef’s kiss pitch-perfect presence on Twitter. She also reached the hearts of many via a recent appearance on the famed variety show Saturday Night Live, with comedian Ego Nwodim. But even before that, Warwick was singing hit after hit, from “That’s What Friends Are For” to “Say A Little Prayer.”
Warwick, who is one of the best-selling and most successful singers in the history of popular music, continues to add accomplishments to her resume and headlines to her oeuvre. She recently released a memoir, My Life, As I See Itshe’s been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she recently earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a new CNN documentary about her life, narrated by Snoop Dogg, is being released.
She is also set to headline a new Las Vegas residency, beginning March 24 at The Stirling Club. American Songwriter caught up with Miss Warwick to ask her about all these accomplishments, as well as to get her thoughts on the potential of global war, the Neil Young-Spotify controversy, and much, much more.
American Songwriter: How are you today, given all the news in the world?
Dionne Warwick: You know, it’s getting to the point that I’m beginning to wonder where am I living? Am I here on earth? Am I on Mars? Am I on the moon? Jupiter? Where am I? This is becoming crazier and crazier.
AS: Yes. Hopefully, we can bring a little sanity here. May I ask you first, when did music first mean something to you as a young person, when did it enter your life?
D.W.: Well, to quote my mother, she said I came out singing [laughs]. So, music has been a part of my life all of my life. I come from a singing family. And music has been all I’ve ever known or ever wanted to know, actually.
AS: You were born into a musical family and family seems central to your life and career. Can you talk about what the idea of family means to you today?
D.W.: Well, first of all, let me put it this way—within my family, there’s an enormous amount of love, encouragement, and trust, which is very important. And I certainly love and honor and trust my family as they do me.
AS: You’re working on a gospel album now. And you say that it’s time for people to get back to God. What have you seen around you or on the internet that’s led you to this conclusion?
D.W.: Every single thing that you started the conversation with about the world. It doesn’t make sense what’s going on. I even find it hard to call people “people” any longer. We’re human beings. I mean, come on! What’s the deal? What is going on? It’s crazy.
AS: May I ask, do you have a theory? What do you think is going on?
D.W.: The lack of understanding and lack of conversation. The lack of love. The lack of just being human, just understanding and talking to each other, instead of fighting. I mean, what are we fighting about?
AS: There’s a phrase that comes up often with you: “Unless you really want to know, don’t ask Dionne.” Where does your keen insight and confidence come from?
D.W.: That’s true! I was taught at a very, very young age: why tell a lie or be ugly when the truth is available and so is beauty? That simple, really. I mean, what’s the point in being stupid? Because that’s exactly what is going on. Things are just stupid and that’s a word I hate using because it’s really an ugly word—stupid. We all do realize that we’re human beings. We all must realize that if I cut myself, I’m going to bleed red. Not green or yellow or purple or blue or any other color. Just as you would, if you cut yourself. So, what is all the craziness about?
AS: You’re famously the Queen of Twitter. I find myself giggling often reading your posts!
AS: So, may I ask: Twitter, what do you love most about it today?
D.W.: Oh, just getting to know people. And you really get to know them on Twitter, believe me. I’m having a lot of fun meeting these babies, and that’s what I call them because they are children, most of them. Having the questions that they want to know from me answered and obliging me by answering the questions that I ask them. It has been absolutely a ball. I’ve been having the best time.
AS: What was your initial interest, how did you come to the platform, to begin with?
D.W.: I had my nieces and nephews at my home and they were all Twittering [laughs] in the living room and having the best time giggling and laughing and talking. I was in my bedroom and I came out of the bedroom and said, “What’s all the fun about?” And Brittani, my eldest niece, said, “Oh, we’re on Twitter, Granny.” I said, “Oh, well what is Twitter?” And she showed it to me. And I saw what they were looking at and I was not that pleased with what I was seeing.
So, I said, “Oh, wait a minute, something’s got to be done about this.” And I said, “Show me how to do this?” And she did. And my entrance was, “Well, kids, I want you to know, there’s a grownup in your presence. And grownups expect respect and that’s exactly what I’m expecting from all of you. So, now that you know I’m here, let’s start a little conversation. I’m going to start asking you questions and I want some answers and you can ask me anything you want to ask me and I will answer you.” And that’s how it all got started.
AS: This might be a weird question, but do you see any connection between being a success on Twitter and writing a hit song?
D.W.: No, not really. Twitter is a means of communicating. Although, songs are also a way of communicating. But directly communicating has been the way that I’ve found I’ve been able to reach these kids. And I’m hoping that you will follow me on Twitter. And I don’t [always] have a giggle every now and then but you do get the essence that the Twitter scene has changed quite a bit since my presence.
As a matter of fact, Jack reached out to me to thank me for becoming a part of Twitter. He said the ambiance of it has changed so drastically. You know, I want to let all these babies know, you know you can say whatever you want to say but there is another way to say it, not the way that you’ve been saying it. And when you’ve said what you have to say, always end it with a smile! Always! That’s exactly what’s been happening. It’s a phenomenon!
AS: In line with that, you have an ability, and you’ve spoken about this, to change with the times while also staying honest with who you are. How do you maintain this balance so gracefully?
D.W.: I just do it! [Laughs] When you have to stop and give so much thought to whatever it is, what’s the point of doing it? Just go ahead and do it. You know? And that’s what I do.
AS: You have a Las Vegas residency coming up, which begins on March 24. It’s called The Metaverse. And I believe you might be joined by Lionel Richie, Snoop Dogg, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and other friends. What are you looking forward to most, personally?
D.W.: Just hanging out with my friends, being out, and hanging out with my friends is truly a wonderful thing at all times. I’m very excited about it!
AS: There’s a documentary about you set to air soon on CNN, which is narrated by Snoop. You also recently wrote a memoir and were given the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement. What is it like for you to comb through your history and all this achievement?
D.W.: I haven’t finished yet, so, you know, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a lot more to do. Once I’ve gotten to the point where I feel, Oh, it’s all over now, that’s when I’ll take the time to do that [and reflect].
AS: And you were just nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
D.W.: Yeah, the second time around [laughs]. It’s amusing. But you know it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. That’s what I always say. I mean, that’s the way it should be. When it’s supposed to happen, that’s when it will happen.
AS: You keep this balanced head on your shoulders, which, I imagine has helped you work hard in your career. Can you talk about the idea of hard work and what you think about it?
D.W.: I don’t work. It’s something I say I would never, ever do was work. What I do for a living, I love. I enjoy. And when it becomes a job, that’s when I’m going to quit. Because I’m never going to do work.
AS: You lived in Brazil for many years. Do you miss Brazil?
D.W.: Very much! Yes.
AS: I’ve never been. I imagine it’s beautiful in many places.
D.W.: Do yourself a favor. Next time you get vacation or think to go somewhere: Brazil.
AS: Where did you like to visit?
D.W.: Where I lived! But everybody wants to go to Rio, that’s a natural thing. And then they’ll go to San Paolo, which is a big city, which most Americans are used to. And the place where I eventually will be living for the rest of my life will be Bahia, which is the northern part of Brazil, going up towards the Amazon.
AS: What is your relationship with Oreo today?
D.W.: [Laughs] Well, they sent me a whole box of ’em, I’ll tell ya that. [Laughs] And we’ve given them to my neighbor’s kids and all the kids that hang around our area. I can’t eat all these Oreos. But, you know what? Oreo and I have a wonderful relationship.
AS: Did you get a box of “Dionne” Oreos?
D.W.: Not yet. We haven’t created that yet.
AS: It is appropriate to ask about your opinion on the recent Spotify and Neil Young battle?
D.W.: That’s his choice. He has the right to not want his music being played and or streamed and or whatever they do to take music from people’s rosters. If he didn’t want it on Spotify, he’s entitled to say, “Take it off.” I think it’s wonderful that he has that kind of strength in which to know who he is and what he is and what he wants and makes it happen.
AS: How do you feel about the reception to your recent SNL appearance and the legend that it’s created with comedian Ego Nwodim?
D.W.: [Laughs] I had the best time. I think I laughed from the moment I walked into the studio to the time they brought me out of secrecy because I was a secret. To the point when they brought me out on stage to hang out with her. It was a wonderful experience; I had loved every second of it. I did.
AS: What do you remember about bringing “Say a Little Prayer” to life?
D.W.: “Say A Little Prayer,” well, it was well worth doing. It was written [by Burt Bacharach and Hal David] during the period of the Vietnam War. I believe Hal David was singing very, very seriously about our babies over there. And I must say this: it was a senseless war. And children—that’s exactly what they were, 18, 19, 20 years old babies—were over there fighting the silly war. And it was a way of saying how much we missed them, how much we loved them, how much we prayed for them and wanted them to come on home.
AS: That message resonates today, actually.
AS: Final question and thank you for your time, Miss Warwick: What do you love most about music?
D.W.: Music is a healing force. It has a powerful, powerful way of making people feel good. Lifting spirits from sadness or unhappiness. Joy. All of those things that make up a human being—hello! There’s that term again human being. As I said, it’s a healing force. I’ve seen how music has lifted people out of sickness. I’ve seen it happen and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. I can’t imagine a world without music.