Dionne Warwick's voice

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turnupthemusic
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:29 pm

Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by turnupthemusic »

Hi all - over the past few months I've discovered Dionne Warwick, and of course the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs that Dionne become so famous for. She was a sublime singer who was massively under-rated! What is apparent in her performances over the years is how much her voice has changed - both due to age and smoking.

Obviously her hey day was in the 1980's with a few hits, hosting Solid Gold and other TV shows - and lots of international appearances. She really was a fantastic singer who could hit some very high notes, belt out long notes and could even give a great vocal with the microphone a good distance away from her. Her voice hasn't been the same since the early 1990's though and that much is apparent to anyone who's listened to a reasonable amount of her live performances.

She seems to have had both good and bad days since - a lot of the good days involve Burt Bacharach, as she always sings in a higher key when he is performing with her. See her 1996 performances on YouTube, where it's clear her voice isn't as good as before but she sure gives it her best effort and sounds fantastic. Her Albert Hall performance in 2000 of 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' is a prime example of Dionne giving her best vocal still -but it's clear that her voice isn't up to the high notes and her voice sounds raspy and strained. Her 2006 American Idol performance with Burt made it clear that Dionne was singing in a high key for her voice but she still sounded great. Even when she sings in a lower key, you occasionally see live performances by her, even quite recently, where she pulls it out of the bag and you can hear some of that old vocal coming through again.

Bad days seem to be the norm sadly - she often sounds raspy and can't pull off the notes that some of the songs require. 'That's What Friends are For' is a often the good example where she changes notes in the song that she can't reach - or where she tries to hold a note, she often can't hold it long enough or she lowers the key as she holds it, which sounds very bad! It's painfully obvious too that she sings some of the old Bacharach/David songs in a much lower key, to the point where they just don't sound as good any more.

What I'm interested in is your opinion - do you think Dionne still sounds good these days? Did she ever sound good at all?

My opinion is: Dionne should stop the constant touring and rest her voice and her self. I'd much rather Dionne did few performances that had a larger audience - and then she could sing songs in a higher key and a better vocal. She's shown she can still sing well so I'm sure it is a case of resting her voice. Unfortunately I think she'll probably keep going till her voice is barely left. I also wish she'd stop touring with her son, and even occasionally her grand-daughter - as good as they are, they aren't who people come to see!

face
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:29 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by face »

Welcome. There is probably no topic more discussed here than Dionne's voice, but that's simply because it is so fascinating. First, let me answer your questions: yes and yes. Yes, she still sounds good today, and yes, she has always sounded good.

I agree that her vocal heyday was the 80s, but many fans here and elsewhere would disagree and say that she peaked in the 60s. I think she peaked in the 80s because that is when she sang with the most confidence and took the most risks with her voice, even though her material was not as good as the Bacharach/David stuff. The best combination was 80s voice combined with BB/HD material (in concert, obviously). Her tip top notes, while slightly compromised from her youth, were still there, but she now had this full, fascinating, almost man-like lower register to play with as well. The 80s is also when she was at her most glamorous (at least from my point of view--I wasn't there in the 60s to know what her image was like), which only added to her appeal. Her 80s performances are a marvel.

My least favorite period for her is the period between 1992 and 2000 or so. There was this thickness to her voice that I don't find appealing--it was almost like she always had a head cold. She was also still struggling through most of her songs in their original concert keys, and the results were spotty. However, in the early 00s, she transposed almost everything down quite a bit, and started sounding less strained. While some of the songs are now too low to be convincingly sung by a woman ("Don't Make Me over" and "A House is Not A Home" come to mind), the low keys work fine for a lot of her repretoire, and most of her fans are probably none the wiser.

From 2003 on, beginning with the Syracuse concert and really emerging on the Christmas CD from 2004, Dionne's voice is really showing an appealing warmth and sweetness. I love her newest CD for just that reason. No, the big notes aren't there, but the warmth, wisdom, and phrasing are very comforting and affecting. I hope that she continues recording in this fashion, even though it is clear that her broadly commercial days are behind her.

Lastly, I'll add that I saw her in concert twice in the last few years. The first show was incredible, the second one was not quite as good, but still enjoyable. She has on and off days, but you should never count her out due to one or two bad recent videos on Youtube. She can still pull it out when she's rested and motivated by an appreciative audience.

Marcel
Posts: 219
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2004 5:47 am

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by Marcel »

I agree with turnupthemusic,because if the voice is no longer that strong to get the high notes en these demanding songs of BURT and HAL to sing, then hey.....
Be realistic al that touring (look at her schedule) that`s not good for her heatlh.

I`ve been there, i also worked a long time ago in the music industry and with several artists and all that touring..........it kills you !!

When people come to watch Dionne and listen to those great songs of BURT and HAL and she sings them of key (what she sometimes does) and then let them sing by her son David because she can not longer get to those high notes.............(even her son David can not get to these high notes !).
For example Thats What Friends Are For....not an easy song to sing,even then when you look at different clips on you tube and even when she is singing this song on live on tv,then it is a poor thing to see and you must think.......its time to get retired...........

But this does not counts only for Dionne but also for other artists !!


Kind regards,

Marcel

blueonblue
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Joined: Fri Oct 06, 2006 3:22 am

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by blueonblue »

Dionne at the height of her powers !!!


"blue"

turnupthemusic
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:29 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by turnupthemusic »

That is a favourite performance of mine by Dionne - she sounds great especially considering it was filmed in 2000. However I wouldn't call it the height of her powers!

Listen to these two performances of the same song and she's miles better:

(after 2:20)
(after 2:24)

turnupthemusic
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:29 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by turnupthemusic »

Marcel wrote:I agree with turnupthemusic,because if the voice is no longer that strong to get the high notes en these demanding songs of BURT and HAL to sing, then hey.....
Be realistic al that touring (look at her schedule) that`s not good for her heatlh.

I`ve been there, i also worked a long time ago in the music industry and with several artists and all that touring..........it kills you !!

When people come to watch Dionne and listen to those great songs of BURT and HAL and she sings them of key (what she sometimes does) and then let them sing by her son David because she can not longer get to those high notes.............(even her son David can not get to these high notes !).
For example Thats What Friends Are For....not an easy song to sing,even then when you look at different clips on you tube and even when she is singing this song on live on tv,then it is a poor thing to see and you must think.......its time to get retired...........

But this does not counts only for Dionne but also for other artists !!


Kind regards,

Marcel
I absolutely agree that the way Dionne often sings her old songs just doesn't sound good any more - but she's proven she's capable of singing them in a higher key when she's in good voice. That's why I wish she'd take it slow, rest her singing voice and maybe we'd hear that old vocal magic more often.

Smoking will be doing her voice no favours at all, it's probably a big reason why her voice has changed so much - so it would be great for her to quit that too, but she's said in the past that smoking makes her voice better so she's clearly very much addicted - and refuses to accept that cigarettes are a bad thing, and are bad for her health and vocals. That's another thing about Dionne, she seems to be quite a lot more stubborn and rude in interviews than she used to be which is sad to see.

BachtoBacharach
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Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by BachtoBacharach »

Turn,

Dionne's heydey as far as her fame goes was definitely in the 60s and early 70s; she along with Aretha Franklin were fixtures on the hit charts in the 1960s and early 1970s. As far as her vocals go, I have always been partial to the 60s and 70s and I would argue that Dionne reached her full vocal prowess from low to high range, body and tone from about 1973 to about 1985. Her voice began to deteriorate slightly around 1985 and it began to be really apparent with, for me, the hit tune Love Power in 1987, although she could summon a lot of power even then and could hit those high notes very convincingly and her voice was still very pleasing (and compare her to Whitney at age 47 and there is really no comparison...Dionne probably retained about 90% of her prowess from the early part of the 70s...Whitney retained a powerful voice then but her ability to hit those high notes was largely gone by then). At some point in the mid to late 90s though she seemed to lose a lot of the power in her voice and at times her voice sounded quite thin. Now, unfortunately, her voice is a shadow of what it once was. Many disagree here, but smoking has had a devastating impact on her voice. Nancy Wilson was remarkable sounding in her last album released in 2005 and Leslie Uggamsat at 69 still retains a wonderful, full bodied voice. Ella Fitzgerald was remarkable at 71. Dionne's voice is so fragile, thin and slight a great deal of the time now. Dionne sings in chest range now for the most part and the tonality and body you normally expect with the chest voice is greatly diminished. To believe that smoking has had no detrimental impact on her range, tone, and capacity is to deny evidence that smoking is an anathema to most singers, but not apparently to Dionne. Sad to me.

An Enormous BB Fan
Posts: 1192
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2004 11:14 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by An Enormous BB Fan »

Does anyone know: Did Dionne ever have nodes on her vocal chords? followed by an operation? Sinatra had them. Adele just had them removed. It's not uncommon.

Now regarding Dionne, I believe her vocal problem stems from abusing her vocal chords by singing too much -- all the touring and concerts she has given! Opera singers, who know how to take care of their voices, never sing that much. Then, add to that the fact that Dionne did not get enough sleep, so her vocal chords didn't have time to recover, and they got thicker and thicker over the years, with no elasticity to them. And, lastly, the smoking. So you have too much singing (with songs that really tax the voice, my god!), not enough sleep, and smoking -- all three combined to really do damage to a voice. (Plus, getting older, of course.)

gillanddon
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:54 am

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by gillanddon »

I hear what you all say but please just listen Dionne's FABULOUS voice on her new CD 'Now' especially in the new songs ... her mellow tones coupled to the fabulously sumptuous Phil Ramone orchestrations I think is definately the coolest sound around at the moment .. Her voice sort of nestles in the music in a way very few vocalists manage .. it's not just tone, it's timing and emotion and inflection etc etc .. a true gift. I she she and Phil would do 10 more discs! Stop the touringand stay in the studio!! Phil Ramone seems to understand her voice and it's limitations like no other. At the World Hunger concert at the Albert Hall in April she sang, in my opinion, THE definitive version of 'Make It Easy On Yourself 'which brought the entire audience to it's feet.

On the new CD I LOVE 'Love Is Still the Answer', '99 Miles From LA', 'Reach Out', 'It Was Almost Like a Song', 'Is There Anybody Out There'.and I think at 71 she is vocally absolutely streets ahead of any current female vocalist of that genre .. yes, including Adele who to me often sounds very strained.

BachtoBacharach
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:32 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by BachtoBacharach »

Dionne had nodes removed from her vocal cords in 1972 after a tour in Japan. She was afraid she would never sing again but risked the surgery. The surgery was successful obviously. Gill I hear what you are saying but I attended a sound check for Dionne just last year and she required a lot of amplification and adjusting to get her vocals so that they could be heard over the band...in case no one has noticed, her vocals are greatly amplified in her concerts these days. Dionne sounds ok in her Now album and it's because Phil made her rest her voice. I would love to hear a raw recording before Ramone worked his magic in the studio. Dionne definitely abuses her voice and it shows. I too wish she would hang up touring but that's where the money is...when she has a run of concerts and appearances, toward the end of those runs, the edema in her vocal cords is quite obvious and her vocals become very weak. And it's ok to not like Dionne's current voice in case anyone objects to any alternate opinions here.

gillanddon
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:54 am

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by gillanddon »

Many thanks for your comments BachtoBacharach ... please don't get me wrong. Of course everyone has their opinion and I really respect yours. I'm just so passionate about the lady.. my partner thinks I need counselling!!?

I'm sure by watching Dionne up close all her flaws must be noticeable. Yes when she relaxes into a song the tone improves. 'Make It Easy On Yourself' in the Albert Hall was pretty close to a raw recording .. very little back upetc but mikes for the Albert Hall were amplified +++ On that evening she seemed very relaxed .. also looked great. Perhaps she will start to slow up on the touring and only do selective appearances soon? Long haul flights are so dehydrating etc plus lack of proper sleep and so on .... somebody please tell her! Come on boys put your foot down and start looking after your mother!!!

BachtoBacharach
Posts: 530
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Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by BachtoBacharach »

Dionne will tour until she drops and that is the sad fact. According to Celebrity Net Worth, she's worth $4 million and that's not far off the mark and most of that is non-cash assets. To put this in perspective, both Aretha and Diana Ross are worth about $60 and $120 million respectively and even Gladys Knight, who's enjoyed a lot of success but not on the level Dionne, Aretha and Diana have is worth $27 million. I have commented before about Dionne's lavish, at times over the top lifestyle expecially in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and her entourage which sometimes swelled to 20 (the equivalent of rock roadies). Her entourage at times would include friends, family and general hangers on. It's shocking that someone who has made as much in her career as Aretha is worth a relatively paltry $4 million when slightly lesser lights are worth much more (Patti Labelle is worth $60 million). Why do I mention this? That is why she is abusing her voice.

gillanddon
Posts: 224
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:54 am

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by gillanddon »

Thanks for those startling facts BachtoBacharach. I was under the misapprehension that Dionne was heir to a lot of the Bacharach and David royalties after the legalities of the split and that she has also funded the continuation of her later recording career and the huge amount of touring? $4m would hardly buy her a suitable house these days on either the West or East Coast or up market Brasil.

GehVorbei

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by GehVorbei »

Unfortunately she still owes $2,598,968.65 in back taxes to the state of California and an amount of just under $1 million to the IRS.

And Dionne sold the rights she had gotten out of the settlement with Burt and Hal to Warner in the 90s. I believe actually together with Burt and Hal...So there are no royalties for her there anymore...

But there seems to be a clause in the Warner deal that allows here to perform and (re)record the songs from the catalogue they sold without having to pay new royalties herself.

BachtoBacharach
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:32 pm

Re: Dionne Warwick's voice

Post by BachtoBacharach »

By the way, Burt is worth a cool $150 million. Dionne has always been an extremely poor financial manager and has been swindled and conned so many times and her extremely lavish spending habits only compounded this. As soon as she signed with Warners in 1971, she purchased the Max Factor home in Beverly Hills former home of Johnny Mathis and Al Capone as well. She spent mega bucks remodeling it (in 1971 dollars!) and spared no expense. She purchased two Rolls Royces for her husband and a home for her parents in Maplewood, New Jersey. The sad thing was that a great deal of this mega-spending was going on while her career was beginning to falter. It was right after that when Bacharach went flaky and tanked his career along with hers. By 1978 she was just about flat broke and was relying on tour income. Along comes Clive Davis. She agrees to cut her Dionne album if Clive will cover the studio expenses and the fees to bring Barry Manilow on board to produce her in exchange for a profit sharing deal on the album if the album covers costs for Arista...Clive then signed her after the success of Dionne for a sweet deal. Then along comes her $5 million settlement from Bacharach/David (Blue/Jac Productions) for her breach of contract lawsuit. Dionne accepted a cash settlement and the rest was joint rights to her Scepter and Warner Brothers recordings produced by Blue/Jac. She was having serious financial troubles by 1991 and sold her half of the joint rights back to Warner Special Products. Bacharach retains a portion of the rights to those recordings. Those same financial troubles which came to a head in 1991 led to her decision to sign a deal with the Psychic Friends Network...for upwards of $3.5 million per year by 1993, a decision which was lucrative in the short term but devestating to her career, her credibility in the US and her longterm financial health. But, she has never been one for soulsearching and self-introspection and seems to get burned over and over. I truly wish she would win the lottery so she could quit touring and supporting so many people and take care of herself. But, our Dionne is so used to the trappings of success and living a luxe lifestyle so she'll continue touring.

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