BMM Artist Highlight: How Dionne Warwick Became One Of The Greatest Singers In History!

Photo credit – Steve Snowden/Getty Images

In celebration of Black Music Month,  we’re honoring the living legend, Dionne Warwick. Her singing roots stem from her gospel background, but she would eventually become one of the best performers in the world!

She was born Marie Dionne Warrick on December 12, 1940, in East Orange, New Jersey. A typo on her debut record in 1962, “Don’t Make Me Over,” spelled her last name with one r instead of two, and she decided to keep the new moniker. 

Her career in music was destiny since she came from a gospel musical background. She’s the daughter of a record promoter, a gospel group manager/performer. In her early teenage years, she started a group called the Gospelaires, with her sister, Dee Dee, and aunt Cissy Houston. They landed work singing background vocals.

After completing high school in 1959, she went to the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. She later met Burt Bacharach who eventually hired her to record demos. A record executive liked Warwick’s demo so much that she got her own record deal.

By 1964, Warwick had two Top 10 singles,  “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “Walk On By,” which was her first No. 1 R&B hit. She also gained success with recording movie soundtracks in the film Alfie.

In 1968 she earned she first Grammy with “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” That same year, she made history as the first African-American woman to perform for Queen Elizabeth II in England. She earned five Grammy’s throughout her career.

Warwick also made it on the pop charts in 1974 with “Then Came You.” She also landed a role on TV hosting a music program, “Solid Gold.” 

In 1985 she released one of her biggest hits, “That’s What Friends Are For,” featuring Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight. It also became an AIDS charity single.

Warwick’s music is timeless and has inspired a lot of the music we hear today. Her music was sampled in over 150 songs! Take a listen to some of the music she’s influenced:


1. “Killing Me Softly”


2. “Who Can I Turn To”

3. “You’re Gonna Need Me”

4. “Walk On By”

See her perform Thursday, June 27 at Westbury Theater!