Sepia magazine covers from the 1970s
Born on this day: December 12, 1940 – Pop and R&B vocal legend Dionne Warwick (born Marie Dionne Warrick in East Orange, NJ). Happy 78th Birthday, Dionne!!
On this day in music history: October 26, 1974 – “Then Came You” by The Spinners and Dionne Warwick hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on October 19, 1974. Written by Sherman Marshall and Phil Pugh, it is the lone pop chart topper for the Detroit based vocal group and the first for the Pop/R&B vocalist. Producer Thom Bell will suggest the duet after The Spinners and Warwick appear on the same live concert bill in Las Vegas. After they record “Then Came You”, Warwick believing the song won’t be a hit, makes a bet with Bell. They take a dollar bill and tear it in half, each taking half. The loser of the bet has to send their half of the dollar to the winner. Released as a stand alone single on July 13, 1974 (later included on The Spinners’ album “New And Improved” and Warwick’s “Then Came You”), it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 #51 on July 27, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. The single quickly sells over a million copies and earn them a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group. Warwick sends Bell her half of the dollar back along with an apology for being wrong about the songs’ hit potential. The song also makes Billboard chart history when it takes the biggest fall from top spot, dropping to #15 the week of November 2, 1974, tying with Billy Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” which it had replaced at number one and took the same downward trajectory. “Then Came You” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 15, 1968 – “Promises, Promises” by Dionne Warwick is released. Written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it is the twenty-second single release for the pop and R&B vocalist from East Orange, NJ. Writing more than dozen top 40 hits for singer Dionne Warwick since making her debut in late 1962 with “Don’t Make Me Over”, songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David turn their creative energies to the Great White Way in 1967. Collaborating with playwright Neil Simon, whose successful works at that point include “The Odd Couple” and “Barefoot In The Park”, Bacharach and David are hired by producer David Merrick (“I Can Get It For You Wholesale”, “Stop The World – I Want To Get Off”, “Hello, Dolly!”) to write the music and lyrics for Simon’s stage adaptation of the Oscar winning film “The Apartment”. Titled “Promises, Promises”, the musical stars Jerry Orbach (“Law And Order”, “Beauty & The Beast”, “Chicago”) and Jill O’Hara playing the roles originated by Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in the original Billy Wilder directed film. Before the original cast album is recorded, Burt and Hal have their musical muse Dionne Warwick record the song first, mainly as a guide for Jerry Orbach who sings the song in the show. The title song’s narrative has to do with “false promises” made by its protagonist, and the pressure they put on themselves to keep their word, but often falling short of that promise. The harmonically and structurally complex composition features numerous jumps in octaves and time signatures, moving from ¾ time, to 6/8 time to 4/4 time all in the course of three minutes. Featuring chord changes that are more akin to jazz than the average pop song of the day, the song proves to be difficult for many to sing. But Warwick takes it all in stride when it comes time to record her vocals. The track is recorded at A&R Studios in New York City in the late Summer of 1968, engineered by studio owner and future superstar producer Phil Ramone. The title track from her eleventh album, it released as a single in the Fall, and quickly becomes Dionne Warwick’s sixteenth Top 40 pop single, peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 on December 7, 1968, #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #47 on the R&B chart. One other song from the musical, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (#6 Pop, #17 R&B, #1 AC) also becomes major hit for Warwick in early 1970. The musical makes its debut on Broadway at the Shubert Theater on December 1, 1968 and is an immediate hit, running for 1,281 performances over the next four years, and winning a Grammy Award for Best Score From an Original Cast Show Album in 1970. The show has run consistently over the years, and is revived on Broadway in 2010 with Sean Hayes (“Will And Grace”, “Cats And Dogs”) and Kristen Chenoweth (“Wicked”, “The West Wing”) in the lead roles.
Dionne Warwick at Hyde Park in London circa 1965.
On this day in music history: May 4, 1979 – “Dionne”, the nineteenth album by Dionne Warwick is released. Produced by Barry Manilow, it is recorded at United Western Studios in Hollywood, CA from October 1978 – February 1979. With a string of more than two dozen pop and R&B chart singles and hit albums released between 1962 and 1971, Dionne Warwick becomes of one of the most successful female vocalists of the era. Following her departure from Scepter Records in 1971 for a lucrative contract with Warner Bros Records, Warwick continues her collaboration with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Having a keen interest in astrology and numerology, in 1971 Warwick takes an astrologer’s advice to an “e” to her last name “for good luck”. However, the decision mostly has the opposite effect. Her tenure Warner Bros yields no major hits, and other than “Then Came You” (#1 Pop, #2 R&B, #3 AC) with The Spinners, Dionne finds it difficult to make the charts. She is dealt a double blow in 1975 when Bacharach and David acrimoniously end their partnership without telling her, and files for divorce from her husband David Elliott. With her life and career at a major crossroads, it takes a few years to find her footing once again. After her Warners contract expires at the end of 1977, Warwick considers walking away from music altogether. In 1978, Arista Records founder Clive Davis approaches Dionne about signing to his label. Skeptical at first, Davis tells her, “You may be ready to give the business up, but the business is not ready to give you up.”, promising to restore the singer to her former hit making glory. The label chief pairs Warwick with pop music superstar Barry Manilow, who other than co-producing his former boss Bette Midler, had not produced another artist other than himself. Manilow proves to be a solid and sympathetic ally in the studio. Led by the ballad “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (#5 Pop, #18 R&B, #5 AC) written by Richard Kerr and Will Jennings (“Looks Like We Made It”), the single is a multi-format smash. It is followed by the sultry “Deja Vu” (#15 Pop, #25 R&B, #1 AC), co-written by Warwick’s old friend Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Anderson. The album spins off a third single with “After You” (#65 Pop, #33 R&B, #10 AC), making it the most successful album of Dionne Warwick’s career. Making the comeback even sweeter, she wins a pair of Grammy Awards in 1980 for Best Pop and R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and “Deja Vu”. The huge success of “Dionne” dovetails into the singer becoming the host of the long running syndicated music show “Solid Gold” from 1980-81 and again in 1985-86. Originally released on CD in 1986, the album is remastered and reissued in 2012 by Big Break Records, containing two bonus tracks. “Dionne” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, number ten on the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
Sepia magazine covers from the 1970s
Born on this day: December 12, 1940 – Pop and R&B vocal legend Dionne Warwick (born Marie Dionne Warrick in East Orange, NJ). Happy 77th Birthday, Dionne!!