Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

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Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

Post by Librother66 »

Good evening everyone!
I have really been bathing in the Dionne/Burt/Hal ouevre. I’ve even made playlist of different artists, instrumental and vocal, who remade their famous catalog. Such as Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Ramsey Lewis, Herb Albert, etc. But, particularly singers. I know that they had a sound totally unique. From Aretha’s 1964‘s remake of ‘Walk On By’, I’ve often wondered who was the real queen. Dionne’s catalogue seemed more influential. Further, I wondered was it Dionne’s magnificent, unique vocal gift that inspired people to try to outdo her renditions, or was it the compositions of Burt and words of Hal David that was so inspiring. I know they were all friendly, but do you think it’s possible that Aretha Franklin, even her aunt Cissy Houston, as the Sweet Inspirations one stated in a video, tried to outdo Dionne out of envy? Example: Aretha calling Dionne in ‘68, asking to speak to the “Millionairess” to let her hear how ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ was supposed to sound like? I’m not writing this post to start anything malicious or shady, but sincerely, out of musical influencial curiousity.
Your thoughts?

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Re: Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

Post by hereiam »

My personal opinion is Aretha and Dionne are totally different in style and genre. Dionne sings "white" music
and Aretha belongs to the "black" (soul music) music market... Isn't Aretha being called Queen of Soul..

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Re: Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

Post by JohnnyD »

I think it was the combination of Dionne, Burt and Hal.

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Re: Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

Post by geoff85 »

This was a symbiotic relationship where the divorce of any of parties could have caused the magic to suffer. History itself showed this. Bacharach's music fell flat or often times seemed indulgent or even corny without Hal's witty lyrics riding those unique and ever shifting time signatures. Dionne while still having still possessed her amazing vocal ability never sounded quite as angelic as she did when they were a trio. I really can't divorce them from each other. Bacharach himself said Dionne was his muse and he had his pick of singers who were even more noteworthy than she was at the time.

For the record I dont know if its fair to say Dionne sang white music. Some African Americans might have felt like that at the time but she was still well renowned even within the African American community at the time(and outside of it). She simply restrained on the heavy gospel inflections and Ba/ charach supplied more of an easy listening sound vs a heavy thumping soul sound. Bacharach= (classical training/ jewish traditional/ cool jazz/ latin(Caribbean/ South American)). Alot of Bacharach jazz and latin influence are actually African American/ African influenced it is not palpable to the masses but if you know your stuff you know it.

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Re: Was it Dionne or was it Burt/Hal?

Post by BachtoBacharach »

Hereiam, regarding the false narrative that Warwick was too "white" and sang white music, I respond below. As Cissy Houston famously remarked when asked in an interview about the matter regarding Warwick's "blackness" dismissed the whole discussion with a simple question: "How black is black enough?"

Dionne Warwick’s appeal to all audiences regardless of race, creed, sex, nationality, etc. was legendary in the 1960s and 1970s. Warwick could not be pigeonholed into a particular genre as was the custom in those days. She was not a pop singer, a soul singer, an R & B singer, a jazz singer but then she was all of the above and then some. Her image, later in the 1960s and post-"Aretha Arrives", lead some music critics to say she was “too white” and had sold out the black community. This false narrative completely ignores the fact that Warwick was a fixture on the R & B albums and singles charts and was perhaps second only to Franklin as the most successful female R & B singer of the era. Interestingly, neither white or black fans cared about this manufactured brouhaha regarding her “blackness” and continued to send her albums and singles to high-placement on pop and R & B charts. She was second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charted female vocalist on the Billboard charts from 1962 through 1998, commonly known as the rock era, according to Joel Whitburn, author of a wildly popular series of books on the history of the Billboard Magazine music charts.

Carlos Santana on Dionne Warwick: “I first started with B.B. King because that's the most natural thing for a guitar player to start with. Because you want to bend notes, you want to be able to express joy, attitude, anger and a cry. But for those people who want to really begin to sing, I suggest getting a lot of Dionne Warwick albums-the old ones-and instead of playing the chords as much, or trumpet things, try to match her vocal note-for-note. Because there was one time where she had that beautiful balance between black and white, you know? Not too black and not too white-right in the middle. The Burt Bacharach period; beautiful stuff. I listened to that, and I learned how to sing. Like that. Through her.” (interview with J.D. Considine, Guitarworld 1981)

Nick Tosches on Dionne Warwick: Nick is the renowned writer, music journalist, novelist, biographer and poet who stated in the January 7, 1972 issue of the rock magazine FUSION; "...getting into Dionne Warwick is like finding buried treasure. The Bacharach/David repertoire which milady chooses to sing is so fascinatingly cynical / fatalistic / stoical / emotional / happy, simultaneously! It's pure emotion. There is a whole lot more to emotion than some rock punk bursting his dexedrine-staved blood vessels by screaming "Baby I need you baby" into a microphone. Dionne Warwick is not a rock and roll singer. She's not a jazz singer either. Rhythm and blues? Nope. A pop singer? No way. Did you ever tongue-kiss with someone who barfed a Singapore Sling bolus into your mouth, and then four years later you're with someone else and you feel good and you realize how beautiful it all was and then it's all melancholy/happiness, sort of? That's the kind of singer Dionne Warwick is. She's beautiful. Dionne, paired with Bacharach's string/horn/reed arrangements, comes up as a lyric mezzo-sopranoid par-excellence, melodious/expressiveness-wise. If you've never gotten into her, you ought to. Get hep to Dionne Warwick. For your own sake."

Dionne Warwick was unique in that she always enhanced and never took away from the compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Yet, she always stood out and there was something about them all working together that magnified everything they did. Burt went places musically and took chances that he would have not taken otherwise because Dionne could sing anything. When a Dionne Warwick single played on the radio in the 60s and 70s, you knew you were listening to something totally unique and instantly identifiable; no mistaking that voice. Contrast that with today, when all the dime a dozen divas mainline their own voices like heroin, guild a song so much with their over-vocalizing, that any good tune they might perform, the melody is totally lost…Whitney and her mother Cissy were often guilty of over vocalizing and losing the melody in their performances. Warwick, on the other hand, was never a narcissistic vocalist...it was always about the song and how she presented it and how she fit within it. Patti LaBelle is a talented vocalist and when she tones it down, she is great, but she is a narcissistic vocalist; she seems so totally absorbed in her own voice and her own talent that just about anything she sings becomes about the voice and thus about herself. I really don't know how Bacharach got Labelle to tone her vocal theatrics down for the lovely "On My Own" but her relative restraint in that recording enhances the entire tune. Most of the current crop of mostly Auto-tuned divas are far less talented than Warwick and rely on vocal gymnastics rather than phrasing and voice control. There will never be another Warwick and I hope she gets her due one day by induction into the RRHOF and she should strictly on the basis of her influential work with Bacharach and David in the 60s and 70s. It’s long overdue.

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