Monday, April 11, 2022

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Vote '22: Dionne Warwick


I voted for Dionne Warwick last year, and since she hasn't bet on baseball or slapped Chris Rock in the interim, one would have to assume I'd vote for her again. But I like to be systematic about these things, so let's take a closer look. 

THE SONG: "Alfie" is pretty much a miracle, a pure pop song with no chorus or refrain and Burt Bacharach as usual refusing to pay the slightest attention to his tonics, but perfect nonetheless. Hal David wrote the lyrics before the music,  which was unusual for the Bacharach/David team, and forced Bacharach to come up with a tune that makes this unorthodox structure sound radio-friendly, which he did.  And then Dionne Warwick sang it as if the lyrics and the melody were the most normal but meaningful thing in the world.

THE CASE FOR: Dionne Warwick's run of hits through the Sixties remain some of the crown jewels of pop music: "Don't Make Me Over," "Walk On By," "Alfie," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," etc., etc. Sophisticated gemstones that Dionne delivered with taste and grace, these Bacharach/David songs have never grown old, nor will they. “She had a specialness in her voice, that she could sing very softly, intimately, and then could explode," said Bacharach. "But always with a certain bit of restraint so it never overwhelmed you.”

After moving on from Bacharach/David, Dionne had her first Number One hit in 1975's "Then Came You," a collaboration with the Spinners. Her second Number One came in 1984 with the all-star "That's What Friends Are For,"  the rare charity-oriented single that you don't get tired of hearing after the charitable impulses have faded.

“What she did just pierced me to the core. To the DNA,” Luther Vandross once said about  “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” “I decided right then and there that that is what I wanted to do. That is what I wanted to do with my life.” It's no surprise that people like Vandross and Philip Bailey would claim Warwick as a critical influence - but even Carlos Santana said his guitar style developed from trying to imitate Warwick's voice.

THE CASE AGAINST: It's possible that  Dionne was the least important of the triumvirate that produced all those great Sixties hits, even though her name was on the records. After all, Herb Alpert, who can't sing, had a Number One hit with a Bacharach/David tune from this incredibly prolific period. But it's also true that Bacharach never had any sort of comparable success with other singers after the split with Dionne.

Her later life got kind of messy, what with the Psychic Friends Network and appearing on "The Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Masked Singer." But we don't hold that kind of stuff against her. You can't play your way out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

THE VERDICT: She had 18 Top 20 hits, many of them stone-cold classics that people are still listening to. That ought to be enough. Also, consider this: not only is Dionne still around at age 81, but Burt Bacharach is also still with us at age 93. (We lost Hal David back in 2012 at the ripe old age of 91.) Let's honor these titans while they can enjoy it. I vote YES on Dionne Warwick.


  1. Tom, you said above that "You can't play your way out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," but you said just the opposite on this "NO" vote for Chicago when referencing their song "Look Away" so I guess you can

  2. I think Warwick merits induction as a pop singer, although a lot of her songs come pretty close to being MOR.

  3. Charlie Ricci: It's a lazy mind that doesn't evolve with the times.