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Music Interview

Exclusive: Dionne Warwick interview: 'Rest is a dirty word'

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Dionne Warwick 'Now'
After breaking into the business at just 16 years old, Dionne Warwick - now a seasoned 71 - celebrates 50 years in music this year.

Currently in the midst of a world tour, she's also put out her new album to mark the occasion titled Now; a collection of reworkings of her biggest (though not necessarily most obvious) hits.

Digital Spy met up with the soul legend to find out what she considers to be her greatest song, and whether she ever plans to call it day.

Congratulations on the new album Now, which celebrates 50 years in music. Does it really feel like 50 years?
"It really has flown by! I only realised last year that 50 years was coming up. That's when I starting thinking, 'What are you gonna do?!'. You have to do something. What better way to celebrate it than through music? The years have really flown."

The album is a mixture of reworked songs and covers; did it give you time to take stock of it all?
"They don't give me enough time to take it all in! I've never sat down and mulled over it all, and I'm happy I haven't done that. I have no desire to look back, I only want to look forward to the things that are still ahead of me."

You really haven't stopped working though.
"It's called cause and demand. All my friends and peers keep asking me when I'm going to rest - I just tell them it's another dirty four-letter word!"

Dionne Warwick


Have you ever had that fear of not saying yes to a work opportunity?
"No. It took me quite a while to get to this point but now I can finally say 'no', and it feels good! There are also things I'm offered these days that I think would be terrific to do, but my body is saying, 'No, girlfriend, you better sit your butt down!'"

How difficult was it to put the tracklist together for the album? You haven't picked all the obvious hits...
"I didn't find it troublesome at all because I left it to everyone else to decide! I did a poll by myself to find out what songs everyone actually liked, rather than just all the ones you'd expect. It's quite neat that 'Reach Out for Me' is on there. I was like, 'Really?!' I never realised people still listened to that song."

Who did you ask? Your label? Friends?
"It was family, friends, peers, taxi drivers, people in the street... it was a real poll. I did it myself - as in, literally walking up to people and asking them what songs should go on it. I want people to react to the album. People came up with such obscure songs; it was so interesting and I had a great deal of fun doing it."

Which, in a way, makes the tracklist even more personal than you picking it yourself.
"It does, exactly."

Has reworking the songs changed the way you feel about them?
"I like to think that we've bought the older songs into the 21st century with integrity, but they never felt like different songs. As each year passes they've taken on a different meaning for me. That's the approach I take for everything I do to this very day."

You recorded it with longtime collaborators Burt Bacharach and Hal David. There must have been some reminiscing in the studio?
"Oh, absolutely! Just the mere fact that I was standing in a recording booth looking out at him sitting there... it was such a cool thing."



And you've recorded two new songs for it.
"They're not completely new, but they're new to me. I'll tell you something - regardless as to who recorded them in the first place, everyone still feels that I should have recorded them first, especially when I requested them again."

You've turned your song 'I Say a Little Prayer' into a duet with your son David; what was that like?
"It was so wonderful. We've been performing together for the last few years and having your baby on the stage with you is very thrilling for me - I'm very proud of that. My youngest son also mixed my vocals. It became a family affair, which I loved. Our duet on 'I Say a Little Prayer' is just sensational and it's had a brilliant reaction. He really is a star."

What's the ultimate Dionne Warwick song?
"All of them. Every single one of them. They're like my babies. You can't have a special one."

Really?
"Honestly, I don't. They're all very, very special to me."

The charts are dominated by female singers these days... do you think any of them have longevity?
"I don't think anyone in the charts today has even thought about the next 50 minutes, let along 50 years. As far am I'm concerned, I don't listen to radio anymore. They play the same ten songs over and over again, so why would I? I listen to my peers and Brazilian music, which I love. The stuff that's being put out today by youngsters is geared for your ears, not mine. It's less audio and more visual, and that's who they're catering to."

What about someone like Rumer, who also works with Burt?
"She's a very interesting lady. Her approach to singing the songs that I have recorded were refreshing. She's a consummate perfectionist and a real professional, which is a real rarity in today's industry."

What advice would you give to your 17-year-old self today?
"I would do exactly what I've done. I think it's all according to the environment that you're in. My mantra is if you can think it then you can do it. My grandpa told me that and I've always lived by it. I don't think there's anything I can't do. I have no regrets."

Dionne Warwick's Now album is out now.

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