Dionne Warwick: Death of Collaborator, “Dear Friend” Burt Bacharach Like Losing Family

The singer and actor discusses her frequent drama with the prolific songwriter, with whom she had 33 hits reach the Billboard charts

Dionne Warwick has charmed a new generation on Twitter, and thanks to a new CNN documentary, Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, the wry 82-year-old may get her due for creating decades of pop music perfection.

Editor’s note: After Burt Bacharach’s death was announced on Feb. 9, Dionne Warwick tweeted a message about her former collaborator, writing: “Burt’s transition is like losing a family member. These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner. On the lighter side we laughed a lot and had our run ins, but always found a way to let each other know our family, like roots, were the most important part of our relationship. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”

LAMag: You are hilarious on Twitter. A personal favorite: “Who is Olivia Rodrigo yelling at on Good 4 U? I would like to know who we are angry with.” I gather you are very close with your niece. Any possibility that your niece is behind the tweets?

Dionne Warwick: No. Dionne writes the tweets. And, yeah, they are funny. Anytime that I am around people, I want them to smile and laugh. And all my tweets, if you notice, end with a smile.

The singer’s Twitter humor.

In 1962, Burt Bacharach discovered you singing backup, fell in love with your voice and, along with his partner, lyricist Hal David, started writing music for you. Then, in 1973, they had a fight and split up. Did you try to mend their relationship?

Mo Ostin, then the CEO of Warner Bros. Records, asked if I could get them to get back into the studio. I was flown to Tahoe to speak with Burt, but Burt was adamant that he wasn’t going to write with Hal any longer. Then I came back to Los Angeles, and Hal said, “I’m not going to write with Burt any longer.” It is a shame that it ended the way it ended.

My voice would never have made any kind of impact with disco music.

Burt did write in his memoir that during that period you showed up at a concert for his then-wife, Carole Bayer Sager, and glared at her.

That’s Burt’s opinion. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know who Carole Bayer Sager was. Nor did I care. And I was only there at the urging of my friends, who wanted to go see what the show was about.

In the studio with Burt Bacharach in 1964.

In 1979, you had a huge comeback with such songs as “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” Just prior to this, were you really thinking about leaving the music business altogether?

Absolutely. I figured that I might as well use my teaching credentials. People were no longer attracted to what I was doing, and I was still a young lady. You have to realize, in that period of time, there was a little thing called disco and a young lady named Donna Summer, who took over the recording industry.

I think your voice would’ve been great on disco records.

No. My voice would never have made any kind of impact with disco music. As a matter of fact, that’s why I kind of did this to my nose when Barbra Streisand decided to jump into disco, which she should never have done. That voice is for romantic, wonderful songs, not disco.

You’ve only ever been married to one man, the late actor William Elliott, but married him twice.

Those who can’t do with, can’t do without.

The first marriage was quite short, right?

It only lasted a few months, and I woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to be married anymore, and I went to Mexico and got a Mexican divorce.

With husband William Elliott and sister Dee Dee at the Academy Awards in 1972.

Was he aware of what you were up to?

No. When I got back, he goes, “Why were you in Mexico?” I said: “Here are the papers. We are no longer married.” But then, he pursued me, which was lovely. I was in Italy, performing, and Bill was sitting in the front row. And he wooed me and moved me and asked me to marry him again. And I said, “OK.” And we got married in Italy.

In 1972, you were on the cover of Jet magazine with the headline “How Astrology Helps Her in Music and Marriage.”

Well, I found out it doesn’t.

Is it true that because of numerology, you added an “E” to the end of Warwick in the ’70s?

Yes. I was told it would add vibratory enhancement to my last name. At the time, my husband and I were going through a bit of turmoil—and the “E” being representative of my last name at the time, Elliott, might vibratorily bring us back together. Well, all hell broke loose with that “E,” and I said, “Let’s get rid of this ‘E.’ ” I did, and that’s when I started recording again, and all kinds of wonderful things started happening.

WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR. Warwick with her aunt, soul singer Cissy Houston.

Back in 2011, you did The Celebrity Apprentice. You did not appear to enjoy that experience.

No, I did not. It was a lot of backbiting and craziness. I said: “Dionne, why are you going to ruin your career here with these crazy people? Get out of this.” And that’s when I fired myself. It was so funny because Donald’s face was like, “You can’t fire yourself.” I just did!

You appeared to particularly dislike Marlee Matlin and Lisa Rinna.

It was a case of not wanting to really be around people of that ilk, who decided that they had to be obstinate, crazy, and say silly things to each other. I said, “I don’t want to be ’round these ladies.”

Evidently, Lisa Rinna has become a big villain on her Real Housewives show. Do you watch those?

No. I don’t watch any of that crap. I watch Gunsmoke.

On the cover of Jet magazine in 1972.

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