Prolific songwriter Diane Warren, who has been at the vanguard of film and TV music for the past 25 years, was honored today (Nov. 14) in Los Angeles with the inaugural Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film and TV Music Career Achievement Award.
A native of the San Fernando Valley in California, Warren, who grew up listening to top 40 radio, has had 31 songs peak in the top 10 of the Billboard 100 and she remains the industry’s go-to songwriter for ballads and love songs across all genres.
She’s also been nominated for the Academy Award for best song six times and won a Grammy Award in 1997 for best song written specifically for a motion picture or television for “Because You Loved Me” from the film “Up Close & Personal.”
“It would be safe to say that Diane was one of the most significant songwriters of the latter part of the 20th century and into the early part of the 21st century,” Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman/CEO Marty Bandier recently told Billboard.
During a Q&A on Day 2 with Billboard senior editor Ann Donahue, Warren said her songwriting process is fairly simple. “I show up. I go to work every day and I can just hope for the best,” she said. “I just sit there and write. It’s not boring but my process probably is.”
The process of creating music, however, never gets dull. “I’m still obsessed with songwriting,” she noted. “It was this or nothing. I literally can’t do anything else.” When asked about the different between writing music and lyrics, Warren said, “Lyrics are longer. I want everything to be perfect … I’m really OCD and I get obsessed.” And at times, writing “two lines can take two days,” she added. “It has its own journey and you’re just along with it.”
Indeed, Warren’s talent for writing blockbuster hits is reflected in the Billboard Hot 100, where she has written or co-written 93 charting singles. She earned her first of nine No. 1s in 1987 with Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” featured in the movie “Mannequin.” In 1996, “Un-Break My Heart,” sung by Toni Braxton, was an inescapable juggernaut, spending an amazing 11 weeks atop the chart.
The next year, LeAnn Rimes’ version of “How Do I Live” from the movie “Con Air” charted for a record-setting 69 weeks. Though less familiar to fans than the superstar artists who recorded her songs, Warren’s creative mind is one of the most well-known in the world.
“Diane is a very emotional writer,” said Clive Davis, who used Warren’s work for Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston and Kelly Clarkson. “The qualities that move people, whether it’s loneliness, whether it’s human angst, she feels the range of emotion and she feels it so keenly. And it’s best expressed through ballads.”
Of recent note, Warren’s worked with Jennifer Hudson, David Cook and Rihanna. On the film music side, she wrote “Do You Feel Me” for Anthony Hamilton to perform for the 2007 film “American Gangster.” Her reputation has gone global: She has written an “anthem for peace” for Israeli president Shimon Peres’ Center for Peace that will be performed at an upcoming concert at the Tel Aviv Opera House.