The 1980s: Move to Arista
With the move to Arista Records and the release of her RIAA certified million seller “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” in 1979, Dionne was again enjoying top success on the charts.
The song was produced by Barry Manilow. The accompanying album, Dionne, was certified Platinum in the United States for sales exceeding one million units.
The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard Album Chart and made the Top 10 of the Billboard R&B Albums Chart. Warwick had been personally signed and guided by the label’s founder Clive Davis, who stated to Dionne “You may be ready to give the business up, but the business is not ready to give you up.”
Dionne’s next single release was another major hit for her. “Deja Vu” was co-written by Isaac Hayes and hit #1 Adult Contemporary as well as #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100. In 1980, Dionne won the NARAS Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Déjà Vu”.
Dionne became the first female artist in the history of the awards to win in both categories the same year. Her second Arista album, 1980’s No Night So Long sold 500,000 U.S. copies and featured the title track which became a major success — hitting #1 Adult Contemporary and #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100 — and the album peaked at #23 on the Billboard Albums Chart.
In January 1980, while under contract to Arista Records, Dionne Warwick hosted a two-hour TV special called Solid Gold ’79. This was adapted into the weekly one-hour show Solid Gold, which she hosted throughout 1980 and 1981 and again in 1985–86.
Major highlights of each show were the duets she performed with her co-hosts, which often included some of Dionne’s hits and her co-hosts’ hits intermingled and arranged by Solid Gold musical director, Michael Miller. Another highlight in each show was Warwick’s vocal rendition of the Solid Gold Theme, composed by Michael Miller (with lyrics by Dean Pitchford).
After a brief appearance in the Top Forty in early 1982 with Johnny Mathis on “Friends in Love” — from the album of the same name — Warwick’s next hit later that same year was her full-length collaboration with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees for the album Heartbreaker.
The song became one of Dionne’s biggest international hits, returning her to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 as well as #1 Adult Contemporary and No. 2 in both Great Britain and Australia. Internationally, the tune was also a Top 10 hit throughout continental Europe, Australia (#1), Japan, South Africa, Canada and Asia.
The title track was taken from the album of the same name which sold over 3 million copies internationally and earned Dionne an RIAA USA Gold record award for the album. In Britain, the disc was certified Platinum.
Dionne later stated to Wesley Hyatt in his ‘Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits’ that she was not initially fond of “Heartbreaker” but recorded the tune because she trusted the Bee Gees’ judgment that it would be a hit. The project came about when Clive Davis was attending his aunt’s wedding in Orlando, Florida in early 1982 and spoke with Barry Gibb.
Barry mentioned that he had always been a fan of Dionne’s and Clive arranged for Dionne and the Bee Gees to discuss a project. Dionne and the brothers Gibb obviously hit it off as both the album and the title single were released in October 1982 to massive success.
In 1983, Dionne released How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye produced by Luther Vandross. The album’s most successful single was the title track, “How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye”, a Warwick/Vandross duet, which peaked at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became a Top 10 hit on the Adult Contemporary and R&B charts. The album peaked at #57 on the Billboard album chart.
Of note was a reunion with the original Shirelles on Warwick’s cover of “Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow?” The album Finder Of Lost Loves followed in 1984 and reunited her with both Barry Manilow and Burt Bacharach, who was writing with his then current lyricist partner and wife, Carole Bayer Sager.
In 1985, Warwick contributed her voice to the multi-Grammy Award winning charity song We Are the World, along with vocalists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Ray Charles. The song spent four consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. It was the year’s biggest hit — certified four times Platinum in the United States alone.
In 1985, Warwick recorded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) benefit single “That’s What Friends Are For” alongside Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The single, credited to “Dionne and Friends” was released in October and eventually raised over three million dollars for that cause.
The tune was a triple #1 — R&B, Adult Contemporary, and four weeks at the summit on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986 — selling close to two million 45s in the United States alone.
In 1988, the Washington Post wrote: “So working against AIDS, especially after years of raising money for work on many blood-related diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, seemed the right thing to do. You have to be granite not to want to help people with AIDS, because the devastation that it causes is so painful to see.
I was so hurt to see my friend die with such agony”, Warwick remembers. “I am tired of hurting and it does hurt.” The single won the performers the NARAS Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, as well as Song of the Year for its writers, Bacharach and Bayer Sager.
It also was ranked by Billboard magazine as the most popular song of 1986. With this single Warwick also released her most successful album of the 1980s, titled Friends, which reached #12 on Billboard’s album chart.
In 1987 Dionne scored another hit with “Love Power”. Her eighth career #1 Adult Contemporary hit, it also reached #5 in R&B and #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100. A duet with Jeffrey Osborne, it was also written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, and it was featured in Warwick’s album Reservations for Two. The album’s title song, a duet with Kashif, was also a chart hit. Other artists featured on the album included Smokey Robinson and June Pointer.
Warwick declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey on March 21, 2013. Due to the reported mismanagement of her business affairs, she lists liabilities that include nearly $7 million owed to the Internal Revenue Service for the years 1991 to 1999 and more than $3 million in business taxes owed to the state of California. Unable to work out an agreement with tax officials, she and her attorney decided that declaring bankruptcy would be the best course of action.
Warwick’s sister Dee Dee Warwick also had a successful singing career, scoring several notable R&B hits, including the original version of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “I Want To Be With You”, from the Broadway version of the musical ‘Golden Boy’.
She also recorded the original version of the song You’re No Good which later became an R&B hit for the late Betty Everett and also a #1 Pop smash for Linda Ronstadt .
Dionne’s cousin was the late singer Whitney Houston, and her aunt is Gospel-trained vocalist Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother.
In her 2010 autobiography, My Life, as I See It, Warwick notes that opera diva Leontyne Price is a maternal cousin.
Dionne Warwick Tour (1966)
Dionne: 40 Anniversary Tour (2002)
Soul Divas Tour (2004)
An Evening with Dionne (2007)
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