Dionne Warwick: ‘Britain has always been very good to me. I feel its wonderful embrace’

Estimated read time 3 min read

There’s always been fire in my belly; it was the way I was brought up. “Be who you are at all times,” my parents said. That’s what I’ve always believed.

I’m from New Jersey, so I’d never really encountered racism until I was asked to play to segregated audiences in the deep south. I simply couldn’t understand why anyone would be so against someone just because of a different skin pigmentation.

I didn’t understand the reaction to Aids, either. That disease killed so many people I knew: my valet, my hairdresser, many others in my industry. Nobody realised what was happening until Rock Hudson put a face on it. He became the poster boy for Aids.

I helped spearhead the opposition to the often violent, undeniably misogynistic lyrics in gangster rap. I invited Snoop Dogg and his band to my home early one morning. They turned up on the dot of 7am. I asked them whether they really wanted children to hear the aggressive words they were singing. Then I pointed out to Snoop Dogg that he might have a daughter one day (which, incidentally, turned out to be the case) who’d hear young women referred to as bitches. Was he comfortable with that?

Britain has always been very good to me. I feel its wonderful embrace. I’ve been so often that I sometimes get asked if I live in the UK.

I haven’t always been comfortable with some of the cover versions of my biggest hits. I am – always was – a big fan of Dusty Springfield. But I wasn’t happy with some of the other British singers who sang my songs.

I don’t blame Cilla [Black] for her interpretation of Anyone Who Had a Heart. I later met her – she was a nice woman, really cute. My complaint was that the treatment of the song wasn’t just similar to mine, it was identical. If I’d sneezed, she would have done, too. In other words, they copied it.

The arc of my life has been preordained. I was taught at an early age to accept the transition of loved ones from this world to the next. My nephew died 12 years ago. He was too young to go. So was Karen Carpenter, a dear friend of mine. My brother, Mancel Jr, died in an accident in 1968; he’d have been 21 the following week. My younger sister, Dee Dee, passed in 2008.

I feel the same about the transition of my cousin Whitney [Houston]. But I didn’t mourn her then and I don’t intend to now. I prefer to celebrate her life. She gave so much of herself. She was a wonderful girl. I always used to say that she was the daughter I never had. And we still have her: her legacy is her music. You hear her on the radio every day. That’s how she’ll live on.

Despite my career, my sons are without doubt my two proudest achievements. They’ve also given me my grandbabies – five girls and two boys.

It can be very difficult [in a relationship] if a woman is more successful than a man. In the end, that’s what finally did for my marriage. A man’s ego is fragile. I won’t apologise for my successful career. I can’t stop being who I am, nor should I be expected to.

Dionne will perform at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival at Glynde Place, East Sussex, from 5-7 July (lovesupremefestival.com)

Source: theguardian.com

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