Dionne Warwick - Biography - Mid-1960s To Early 1970s

Mid-1960s To Early 1970s

The mid-1960s to early 1970s became an even more successful time period for Warwick, who saw a string of Gold selling albums and Top 20 and Top 10 hit singles. "Message to Michael", a Bacharach-David composition that the duo was certain was a "man's song", became a top 10 hit for Warwick in May 1966. The January 1967 LP Here Where There Is Love was her first RIAA certified Gold Album and featured "Alfie", and two 1966 hits: "Trains and Boats and Planes" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself". "Alfie" had become a radio hit when disc jockeys across the nation began to play the album cut early in 1967. "Alfie" was released as the "B" side of a Bacharach/David ballad, "The Beginning of Loneliness" in which charted in the Hot 100. Disc jockeys flipped the single and made it a double-sided hit. Bacharach had been contracted to produce "Alfie" for the Michael Caine film of the same name and wanted Dionne Warwick to sing the tune but the British producers wanted a British subject to cut the tune. Cilla Black was selected to record the song, and her version peaked at #95 upon its release in the USA. A cover version by Cher used in the USA prints of the film peaked at #33. In the UK and Australia, Black's version was a Top 10 hit. In a 1983 concert appearance televised on PBS, Warwick states she was the 43rd person to record "Alfie", at Bacharach's insistence, who felt Dionne could make it a big hit. Warwick, at first, balked at recording the tune and asked Bacharach "How many more versions of Alfie do you need?" to which Bacharach replied "Just one more, yours." Bacharach took Warwick into the studio with his new arrangement and cut the tune the way he wanted it to be, which she nailed in one take. Warwick's version peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on both the R&B Chart and the AC Charts. Warwick performed the song at the Academy Awards in 1967. Today, "Alfie" is considered a signature song for Warwick.

Later that same year, Warwick earned her first RIAA Gold Single for U.S. sales of over one million units for the single "I Say a Little Prayer" (from her album The Windows of the World). When disc jockeys across the nation began to play the track from the album in the fall of 1967 and demanded its release as a single, Florence Greenberg, President of Scepter Records, complied and "I Say a Little Prayer" became Warwick's biggest US hit to that point, reaching #4 on the U.S. and Canadian Charts and # 8 on the R & B Charts. The tune was also the first RIAA certified USA million seller for Bacharach-David. Aretha Franklin would later cover the tune, reaching #10 on the US Charts.

Her follow-up to "I Say a Little Prayer", "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls", was unusual in several respects. It was not written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was the "B" side of her "I Say a Little Prayer" single, and it was a song that she almost didn't record. While the film version of Valley of the Dolls was being made, actress Barbara Parkins suggested that Warwick be considered to sing the film's theme song, written by songwriting team Andre and Dory Previn. The song was to be recorded by Judy Garland, who was fired from the film. Warwick performed the song, and when the film became a success in the early weeks of 1968, disc jockeys flipped the single and made the single one of the biggest double-sided hits of the rock era and another million seller. At the time, RIAA rules allowed only one side of a double-sided hit single to be certified as Gold, but Scepter awarded Warwick an "in-house award" to recognize "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls" as a million selling tune.

Warwick had re-recorded a Pat Williams-arranged version of the theme at A&R Studios in New York because contractual restrictions would not allow the Warwick version from the film to be included in the 20th Century Fox soundtrack LP. The LP Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls, released in early 1968 and containing the re-recorded version of the movie theme (#2–4 weeks), "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and several new Bacharach-David compositions, hit the #6 position on the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart and would remain on the chart for over a year. The film soundtrack LP, without Warwick vocals, failed to impress the public, while Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls earned an RIAA Gold certification.

The single "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?", an international million seller and a Top 10 hit in several countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Mexico, was also a double sided hit with the "B" side "Let Me Be Lonely" charting at #79.

More hits followed into 1971 including "Who Is Gonna Love Me" (#32, 1968) with "B" side, "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" becoming another double-sided hit; "Promises, Promises" (#19, 1968); "This Girl's in Love with You" (#7, 1969); "The April Fools" (#37, 1969); "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (#15, 1969); "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (#6, 1969); "Make It Easy on Yourself" (#37, 1970); "Who Is Gonna Love Me" (#33, 1968); "Let Me Go to Him" (#32, 1970); and "Paper Mache" (#43, 1970). Warwick's final Bacharach/David penned single was March 1971's "Who Gets the Guy", and her final "official" Scepter single release was "He's Moving On" b/w "Amanda", both from the soundtrack of the motion picture adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine.

Warwick had become the priority act of Scepter Records, according to the website "The Scepter Records Story" and producer/A&R chief, Luther Dixon in a 2002 A&E Biography of Burt Bacharach, with the release of "Anyone Who Had a Heart" in 1963. Other Scepter LPs certified RIAA Gold include Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits Part 1 released in 1967 and The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold released in 1971. By the end of 1971, Dionne Warwick had sold an estimated thirty-five million singles and albums internationally in less than nine years and more than 16 million singles in the USA alone. Exact figures of Warwick's sales are unknown and probably underestimated, due to Scepter Records apparently lax accounting policies and the company policy of not submitting recordings for RIAA audit. Dionne Warwick became the first Scepter artist to request RIAA audits of her recordings in 1967 with the release of "I Say a Little Prayer."

On Wednesday, September 17, 1969, CBS Television aired Dionne Warwick's first television special entitled "The Dionne Warwick Chevy Special." Dionne's guests were Burt Bacharach, George Kirby, Glen Campbell, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In 1971, Dionne Warwick left the family atmosphere of Scepter Records for Warner Bros. Records, for a $5 million contract, the most lucrative recording contract ever given to a female vocalist up to that time, according to Variety. Warwick's last LP for Scepter was the aforementioned soundtrack for the motion picture The Love Machine (in which she appeared in an uncredited cameo), released in July 1971. In 1975, Bacharach and David sued Scepter Records for an accurate accounting of royalties due the team from their recordings with Warwick and labelmate B.J. Thomas. They were awarded almost $600,000 and the rights to all Bacharach/David recordings on the Scepter label. The label, with the defection of Warwick to Warner Bros. Records, filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and was sold to Springboard International Records in 1976.

Following her signing with Warners, with Bacharach and David as writers and producers, Dionne returned to New York City's A&R Studios in late 1971 to begin recording her first album for the new label, the self-titled album Dionne (not to be confused with her later Arista debut album) in January 1972. The album peaked at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart. In 1972, Burt Bacharach and Hal David scored and wrote the tunes for the motion picture Lost Horizon. But the film was panned by the critics, and in the fallout from the film, the songwriting duo decided to terminate their working relationship. The break-up left Dionne devoid of their services as her producers and songwriters. Dionne was contractually obligated to fulfill her contract with Warners without Bacharach and David and she would team with a variety of producers during her tenure with the label.

Faced with the prospect of being sued by Warner Bros. Records due to the breakup of Bacharach/David and their failure to honor their contract with Dionne, she filed a $5.5 million lawsuit against her former partners for breach of contract. The suit was settled out of court in 1979 for $5 million including the rights to all Warwick recordings produced by Bacharach and David.

Warwick, for years an aficionado of psychic phenomena, was advised by astrologer Linda Goodman in 1971 to add a small "e" to her last name, making Warwick "WARWICKe" for good luck and to recognize her married name and her spouse, actor and drummer William "Bill" Elliott. Goodman convinced Warwick that the extra small "e" would add a vibration needed to balance her last name and bring her even more good fortune in her marriage and her professional life. Unfortunately, Goodman proved to be mistaken about this. The extra "e," according to Dionne, "was the worst thing I could have done in retrospect, and in 1975 I finally got rid of that damn 'e' and became 'Dionne Warwick' again." She is a great admirer of Brazilian music, and in addition to a summer house in Bahia and another in the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro Dionne performs on a somewhat regular basis alongside renowned artists such as Ivan Lins, Simone, Jorge Ben Jor, among others.

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