Dionne's Legacy as a Pioneer

The Burt Bacharach Forum is a board to discuss the music and career of composer Burt Bacharach and performers associated with his songs.

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Dionne's Legacy as a Pioneer

Postby face » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:27 pm

Along with Burt/Hal/Dionne, Earth Wind and Fire sits at the pinnacle of popular music to my ears. I just finished reading Maurice White's riveting autobiography, My Life with Earth, Wind, and Fire (https://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Earth-Wi ... 0062329154), and I recommend it highly for anyone who loves that band and wants a peek at the creative process. It's really the kind of book that I wish Burt or Dionne would have written, because their creative process (particularly Dionne's) is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Nonetheless, as I was reading the book, I noticed time and time again that when White would cite his groundbreaking accomplishments in the 1970's as an African American artist ("crossing over," starting his own production company, acting, etc.), I recalled that Dionne had hit the same marks back in the 1960's. She was a bona fide crossover star; she earned pop Grammy awards; she had million sellers; she started her own label; she acted in a movie; she influenced and groomed younger artists; she sold out arenas and played all of the top venues in the world as a solo act; and on and on. Moreover, she did all of this as an African American woman while the civil rights movement was still in progress. Her status as a pioneer in the very tough and exploitative music industry is tragically overlooked. I hope that her biopic, if it ever comes to light, educates more people about the barriers that she broke down in the entertainment world, but I wish that more could be done to shore up her legacy while she is still with us.

Here on this forum, we have discussed at length how she has undermined her own legacy over the years, beginning in the 1990's, but I still can't truly understand why she is so overlooked, and I'm too young to remember when she really commanded widespread respect (if she ever did get what she deserved). I also wonder if people inside of the entertainment world still revere her, while the rest of the world looks the other way. Finally, I have often thought that Dionne's relative lack of accolades compared to Aretha has more to do with the fact that Dionne has never fit the African American female stereotypes that Aretha does -- the earthy, troubled, mercurial, gospel-tinged, overweight lady of soul and sorrow. Dionne's talent and persona (educated, chic, outspoken, sophisticated) might not fit the traditional narrative for the opinion-shapers in the media, so they have cast her aside because it's too hard to contextualize her. Who knows. Anyway, thanks for reading my diatribe!

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