Born Marie Dionne Warrick in East Orange, the young woman who would become the star known as Dionne Warwick grew up as the daughter of a record promoter and a gospel group manager and performer.
As a teenager, Warwick started a group, the Gospelaires, with her sister, Dee Dee, and aunt Cissy Houston. During college, at Harrtt College of Music in Hartford, CT, Warwick performed backing vocals in New York City. During one session, she met a songwriter named Burt Bacharach, who hired her to record demos for songs he wrote with lyricist Hal David. That was the first step in a record-setting collaborative relationship with Bacharach that propelled her to Grammy-award-winning superstardom. She has had 56 singles land on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In 1964, Warwick had two Top 10 singles with the Bacharach/David compositions, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “Walk On By, which was her first No.1 R&B hit. “Message to Michael” made the Top 10 in 1966, and her version of “I Say A Little Prayer” climbed as high as the No. 4 spot the following year. Warwick also found success with her contributions to movie soundtracks. The theme song for the 1967 film Alfie, starring Michael Caine, was a success for her, as was “Valley of the Dolls,” from the 1968 movie of the same name. In 1968, Warwick earned her first Grammy with “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” That same year, Warwick became the first African-American woman to perform for Queen Elizabeth II.
Warwick reached the top of the pop charts for the first time in 1974 with “Then Came You,” which she recorded with the Spinners. In 1979, she made a triumphant return to the charts with the ballad “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” She then became a fixture on television with the music program Solid Gold, which she hosted in the early 1980’s. Warwick also had several successful collaborative efforts. In 1982, she had hits with a pair of duets, “Friends In Love” with Johnny Mathis, and “Heart Breaker” with Barry Gibb. In 1985, Warwick teamed up with Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight for one of her biggest hits, “That’s What Friends Are For,” a single written by Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. The song reached No. 1 and resulted in significant donations to AIDS research.
In 2012, Warwick celebrated her 50th year in music with the album Now. The recording features songs written by Bacharach and David. Warwick has two sons, David and Damon Elliot, from her marriage to actor and musician William David Elliot. She has worked with both of her sons on different projects over the years.
Warwick earned her professional name when her first single, “Don’t Make Me Over,” contained a typographical error, changing “Warrick” to “Warwick.”