Dionne Warwick shares a laugh with Clive Davis onstage at the Clive Davis Theater inside the Grammy Museum. Save for a reference during a brief remark from Davis about legendary singers and a clip showing Whitney Houston singing "That's What Friends Are For" with Warwick at last year's pre-Grammy Gala, there was no other mention of Houston during the evening. (Photo: R. Sapp/WireImage)
When Dionne Warwick segued from gospel to secular music in the early '60s, she recalls a few rumblings about her career move. That's when her minister grandfather gave the singer some sage advice.
"He said, 'You're doing something with the gift you were given,'" Warwick recalled Monday night (March 26) before a packed Grammy Museum at L.A. Live. "Then he said remember one thing: 'Let them folks run their mouths and you run your business.'"
From left: Davis, Warwick, Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow, Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli and associate manager of education Nwaka Onwusa. (Photo: R. Sapp/WireImage)
That was just one of many colorful and insightful recollections during the museum's American Express-presented salute to Warwick's 50 years in music. Joining the singer were two figures instrumental in her career: composer/producer Burt Bacharach and veteran label executive Clive Davis. Bacharach's songwriting partner, lyricist Hal David, was originally slated to appear, but canceled due to illness.
The two-hour session opened with Warwick singing two Bacharach/David classics: "Alfie" and "What the World Needs Now Is Love." Then talk turned to her early beginnings and later role as muse for rising team Bacharach/David. The trio forged an indelible bond that culminated in a radio-ruling string of R&B and pop hits during the '60s and early '70s, beginning with "Don't Make Me Over." Warwick laughingly recalled the "32 takes" that Bacharach wanted every time they recorded. And Bacharach noted that the songs he and David penned "were cut like cloth for the lady to sing … in her sensuous, tantalizing way." He also apologized for an earlier rift that ultimately led to lawsuits between the three in the wake of him and David scoring the 1973 film "Lost Horizon," which was a critical and commercial flop.
Before the performance/Q&A session, Santelli hosted a VIP unveiling of the museum's first exhibit honoring an artist for, in his words, "50 years of great service." Burt Bacharach (far left) joins Davis, Warwick, Portnow, exhibit curator Onwusa and Santelli. (Photo: R. Sapp/WireImage)
Calling Warwick, Bacharach and David "pop music royalty," Davis talked about signing the singer to Arista in the late '70s. That liaison led to such hits as "I'll Never Love This Way Again," the "Love Power" duet with Jeffrey Osborne and the AIDS benefit anthem "That's What Friends Are For." Davis and Warwick both noted that "every single dime" from sales of the Bacharach co-write (with ex-wife Carole Bayer Sager) are still being donated to AIDS research.
Ending the sit-down with a surprise, Bacharach-accompanied performance of her top 10 R&B/pop hit "This Girl's in Love With You," Warwick declared she's not done yet. On the way: a 50th anniversary tour and a new CD. Produced by Phil Ramone, the CD features new versions of some of her classic hits-plus two songs written by Bacharach without David and two David songs without Bacharach. "This has been an incredible ride and it hasn't stopped yet," Warwick declared. "Keep your eyes and ears open."
Among guests spotted in the audience: The Recording Academy's Neil Portnow, " Tonight Show With Jay Leno" music director Rickey Minor, Natalie Cole, DMI Music & Media Solutions CEO/chief creative officer Tena Clark, author David Nathan and Warwick's two sons, singer David Elliott and music producer Damon Elliott.
Warwick stands before the exhibit, which features stage outfits, sheet music, a framed RIAA gold record award among other artifacts. Asked during the Q&A what she wants her legacy to be, Warwick replied, "That I was true to who I am." (Photo: R. Sapp/WireImage)