Singer and humanitarian are just two of the roles the legendary Dionne Warwick has held throughout her 50 years in the music industryand she has no intention of ending it there.
The five-time Grammy winner spoke with Windy City Times about her successful career; her new album, Now, which features her older songs along with some new ones; her involvement with the fight against AIDS; and her appearance on TV One's fourth season of Life After.
Windy City Times: You're celebrating 50 years in music. How does that feel? Did you ever dream you'd have this career this long?
Dionne Warwick: Well, not for 50 years, for certain. [Laughs] It's quite an awesome feeling to know that I've been doing what I love to do for the past 50 years. It's wonderful.
WCT: You grew up with a lot of musical influences. Was there any advice that helped you at the start of your career that possibly you still live by?
Dionne Warwick: Basically, my mantramy grandfather gave to me and I do live by that[is,] "If you think it, you can do it." I did have the pleasure of being in the presence of the icons of our industry and people like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.; they all just kind of mentored me. So I guess it kind of rubbed off.
WCT: What was it like working on your new album, Now?
Dionne Warwick: It was wonderful revisiting songs I haven't sung in ages and there were songs that people that I took a poll from decided were their favorite Dionne Warwick recordings.
WCT: How many people did you poll and whom did you ask?
Dionne Warwick: Oh, golly I lost count. [Laughs] It was quite a few. Not only my peers and friends, I asked my doctor and his nurse and just people in the street. So it was quite a few people. It was kind of surprising some of the songs that were chosen.
WCT: Which songs were surprises, in particular?
Dionne Warwick: "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" is something I would have never dreamed would have been a favorite song of most of the peopleor "Reach Out for Me." These are songs that were basically hidden.
WCT: Do some of the songs feel brand-new when you revisit them, even after performing them numerous times?
Dionne Warwick: I don't think you could ever get tired of success, can you? So, there's no way in the world I can ever get tired of singing my music. They're my children. You don't get tired of your kids. The newer ones are songs that have been recorded by others apparently that I had never gotten a chance to listen to and also written separate and apart from each other by Burt [Bacharach] and Hal [David]. So, when I requested them to come up with a couple of songs, the two songs that Burt chose and the two that Hal chose, they're the newer ones that are on the CD.
WCT: Any songs you especially enjoyed singing that you wanted on the albummaybe a favorite of yours?
Dionne Warwick: They're all that way. They are all very dear to me. So they're all my favorites. I just want people to know I had a wonderful time recording Now and certainly hope that they'll have an addition to their repertoire of CDs or however they want to download it, or however they want to get it and they'll enjoy it as much as I did.
WCT: What sparked your involvement as a humanitarian, especially with the fight against AIDS?
Dionne Warwick: I think it was basically at the point where we were talking so much about it, that it was time to do something about it. Then losing so many people, especially within our industry, at that time … I'm the inquisitive one; I want to know what's going on and why. So, I decided to take a look at it and talk to some people that could give me some concrete answers, so that's how I got involved with AIDS [research and awareness].
WCT: What are your future hopes for the cause, and are there any further actions you plan to take, in particular?
Dionne Warwick: Certainly! I'm still in the fight against AIDS and I haven't stopped fighting for what we hope will be the ultimate, which is a cure.
WCT: You've featured your life in your autobiography and on TV One's fourth season of the series Life After. How did you decide to put your life out there?
Dionne Warwick: People have their own opinions and they voice them, and apparently most people start believing what are not even half-truths. So I figured: You want to know the real deal, you get it from the person who can give you the absolute answers.
WCT: What is your "life after" moment, and how did things change?
Dionne Warwick: Basically nothing's really changed; I just matured. Again, understanding the role that I'm playing in my lifetime and apparently I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing because it's been successful in every area.
WCT: You just received the Living Legend Award at this year's "Black Girls Rock!" awards show. What does that honor mean to you?
Dionne Warwick: It's very, very humbling to be thought of in that vernacular, first of all. Most importantly to be given this particular rewardI don't call them awards, I call them rewardsfor the work I've been doing and especially being given to me by my own is the ultimate.
WCT: After all your experience in the business, are there things that still inspire you?
Dionne Warwick: I still have aspirations of receiving the Oscar, the Emmy and the Tonyand not necessarily in that order. I still have yet to do a great piece of television and a wonderful piece of film and, of course, the ultimate, which would be Broadway. Being in the industry as long as I have, these are the things that have yet to be attained and accomplished.
WCT: Are there newer talents you admire along with some of the older ones who inspired you in the beginning?
Dionne Warwick: I'm not really one that looks at and/or listens to the radio or the MTV shows, basically because they are geared toward the youth of our industry and that's what's dominating it now and rightfully so. It is not what I particularly listen to. It's not for my ears. It's for the younger ears. I listen to my CDs and those CDs of my peers.
Visit www.dionnewarwick.info and www.facebook.com/dionnewarwick for more information.