An icon in music and the entertainment industry at large, Dionne Warwick is readying her return to the spotlight after taking a five-year-break from recording.
The six-time Grammy winner has two new albums out this year: the R&B record “She’s Back,” which was released in May, and her Christmas album, “Dionne Warwick and the Voices of Christmas,” which came on Oct. 18.
During her chat with Atlanta Black Star on Oct. 14, Warwick said she did not anticipate releasing two LPs — each produced by one of her sons, engineer/producer Damon Elliot — back-to-back this year.
“I had no idea that I was gonna drop a Christmas album this fast,” the 78-year-old songstress said. “‘She’s Back’ was because of me being accosted by people basically asking why I had not recorded in the past six, seven years. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I’ve been missed this much.”
Warwick called “She’s Back,” which was her first top 3 Billboard albums in 50 years, “one of my favorites so far, and I think it’s some of my best work thus far.”
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner also had great things to say about her Christmas album — her second after 2004’s “My Favorite Time of the Year.” It features duets from artists such as Johnny Mathis, Andra Day, Chloe x Halle and Aloe Blacc, to name a few.
“Absolutely incredible, it really was,” she said. “And it was so pleasing to know that the right songs were chosen for the right people.”
While younger artists throughout the decades, like Monica, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton and, of course, Warwick’s cousin Whitney Houston, have certainly been influenced by the star musically, the singer herself is still listening to the music of her peers. And it’s those same peers who offered her some sage advice that she’s taken through her entire career.
“I had icons of the industry as my mentors,” she said, including Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr. among them. “They basically all said the same thing to me: Always be who you are. Because you cannot be anyone else. I feel like that should ring true to everybody.”
And although Warwick considers those performers as icons, she’s hesitant to include herself in that category.
“My definition of an icon, I still have a long way to go to be sitting directly beside someone like Ella Fitzgerald or Sammy Davis Jr. or Frank Sinatra. I still have a lot to learn — I’m still learning,” she said.
Regardless, the crooner certainly has lots of experience under her belt. She began her career in the 1960s after releasing her debut single “Don’t Make Me Over.” After that, she went on to score many more hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the writing team who discovered her. She earned her first Grammy in 1968 for “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” The star later achieved success on the pop charts and had one of her biggest hits in the form of the all-star AIDS charity single “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1985.
After a period of personal trouble in the final years of the 19th century, Warwick faced the loss of her sister, DeeDee in 2008, followed by the death of cousin Houston in 2012. But that same year, Warwick released the album “Now,” which celebrated her 50th year in the music business. Two years later, she dropped “Feels So Good,” a collection of her hits curated by artists like Cee Lo Green and Gladys Knight. It would be the last album the performer would record before this year’s comeback record “She’s Back” and her new Christmas effort.
With all that experience, the star certainly has developed a thick skin and has collected tons of advice to share. Yet that’s not the way she likes to put it.
“I don’t know how thick my skin is. I have been in the industry now 58 years. I have a lot that I can share if asked. And I don’t give advice, I give encouragement,” she said.
Certainly, the star could offer some encouragement about staying power in the industry. One of the ways Warwick is exhibiting that staying power is through her Las Vegas residency, “An Evening with Dionne Warwick.” Hosted at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace right on the Vegas Strip, Warwick is currently performing there through March 2020.
“It’s been quite interesting,” Warwick said of her concert series. “It’s been a joy. We’ve had wonderful audiences. They seem to be enjoying what they come to see and hear. We’ll be here quite a while.”
Outside of the limited engagement in Vegas, Warwick is looking to get back into the studio to record as she adheres to what she’s always stuck to throughout her career.
“I am me,” she says. “I don’t try to be somebody that I know I can’t be. There’s no point in that because people come to see Dionne Warwick and hear Dionne Warwick. So what’s the point in trying to do something that I can’t?”