Kennedy Center honoree Dionne Warwick reflects on her


Among the graduates of the Lincoln School in East Orange, New Jersey, Dionne Warwick is one for the books. A six-time Grammy winner, she is the second most-charted female vocalist of the rock era. And so, it’s fitting that today the school is now called the Dionne Warwick Institute.

She continues to give back to her old school. “Oh, absolutely. There are so many in these classrooms that are filling their heads with hope and joy and peace,” she said.

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Singer Dionne Warwick, a 2023 Kennedy Center Honoree.

CBS News


Warwick, whose real name is Marie Warrick, was born into a musical family. Her mother and siblings performed as the Drinkard Sisters. “It was almost like it was preordained, that if you’re in this family, this is what you’re gonna do,” she said.

And at 6 years old, her grandfather, a minister, called her up to the pulpit to sing. “After I finished singing, the whole congregation stood and applauded me,” she said. “That was my first standing ovation.”

It would not be her last. Starting in the early 1960s, a collaboration with lyricist Hal David and composer Burt Bacharach would lead to hit after hit: “I Say a Little Prayer,” “What the World Needs Now,” “Walk On By,” “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart).”

“I thought we were very strange,” Warwick laughed, “because of what we were doing musically; nobody else was doing that kind of stuff. Nobody sings five different measures in five different time frames – but I do. Why? It was something that I found quite refreshing … We were kind of pioneers.”

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Dionne Warwick and composer Burt Bacharach at Pye Studios in London, November 29, 1964.

Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images


Though she was competing on the charts against rockers from the British Invasion, she said “all of those who were in the quote-unquote rock ‘n’ roll era started listening to Bacharach-David-Warwick.”

In 1969 she garnered her first Grammy Award for best female contemporary pop vocal performance for “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” That same year, she met Elvis Presley while performing in Las Vegas. Cissy Houston, her aunt and the mother of Whitney Houston, was a member of The King’s backing group, the Sweet Inspirations.

“Oh my God, was he pretty!” Warwick laughed. “He said, ‘I’m gonna make an announcement tonight at my show that anyone who goes into a record store and they [buy] any Dionne Warwick album, they will find a photograph signed by me.’ I sold more albums in Vegas than I have ever sold!”

The hits kept coming over the next decade, even as other artists covered some of her old tracks, from Issac Hayes performing “Walk On By,” to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, singing “Say a Little Prayer.” Warwick came around to appreciating other artists’ cover versions: “It got to the point where I understood, or I began to understand, what a compliment that is,” she said.

Though she didn’t think so at first: “No! What are you doing singing my stuff?”

Then, in the early 1980s she was one of the first stars to call attention to the AIDS epidemic. “We were losing so many people within our industry,” she said. “I wanted to find out, what can we do about this?”

She decided to pull a few of her own friends together for a good cause, like Elton John: “I ran into Elton – I run into so many people in the grocery store! – I said, ‘Elton, what are you doing tomorrow?'”

Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder joined them to record a version of “That’s What Friends Are For” – a charity single which to date has raised millions of dollars for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

At 83, Warwick has stayed as relevant as ever, from starring in a 2021 sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” to earning the title “Queen of Twitter,” reaching new generations with her biting wit. She admits getting quite saucy on the social media platform: “It’s the only way that they’ll listen to me,” she said.

For Warwick, home is where she wants to make the most profound impact.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to carry messages of hope, inspiration, love, joy, a couple of tears here and there. As long as these two vocal chords function the way He wants them to function, it’ll be there.”

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Tributes to the singer at the Dionne Warwick Institute in East Orange, N.J.

CBS News



The 2023 Kennedy Center Honors airs on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Wednesday, Dec. 27, and streams on Paramount+.

Don’t miss profiles of this year’s other honorees, including Billy Crystal, Renée Fleming, Barry Gibb and Queen Latifah, all this week on “CBS Mornings.”  





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