Dionne Warwick Opens Up About The Painful Battle She's Had To Fight For Six Decades

Dionne Warwick is a true musical icon. She first entered the charts way back in 1962 with “Don’t Make Me Over,” and she’s still making music six decades later. How has she stayed on top all these years? She certainly has her professional — and deeply personal — relationship with the late songwriter Burt Bacharach to thank for her rise to stardom. But, as the singer revealed, she’s fought hard every step of the way to keep her success — even taking on the likes of Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur!

“My Dear Friend and my Musical Partner”

Warwick’s incredible journey in the music industry will forever be linked to legendary composer Burt Bacharach, who penned so many of her big songs. Following his death on February 8, 2023, she said, “Burt’s transition is like losing a family member. These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner. On the lighter side, we laughed a lot and had our run-ins, but always found a way to let each other know our family, like roots, were the most important part of our relationship. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”

An unexpected big break

Warwick first started working with Bacharach when she was a backing singer on the 1962 track “Mexican Divorce,” which Bacharach had co-written with Bob Hilliard for The Drifters. During recording, the legendary songwriter announced that he wanted to speak to the young Warwick personally, and she assumed it was bad news. “I thought I must have been singing too loud,” she recalled to The Wall Street Journal in 2018. But she couldn’t have been more wrong: Bacharach had actually been so impressed that he wanted to hire her for demos.

The story behind “Don’t Make Me Over”

It was that very same year that Bacharach, along with lyricist Hal David, helped launch Warwick onto the world stage with “Don’t Make Me Over.” The song was just one of Warwick’s hits, yet it totally sums her up. And the story behind the song is truly revealing. “In 1962 when I agreed to record a demo of Hal and Burt’s ‘Make It Easy on Yourself,’ they promised me the song,” she said. “Instead, they gave it to Jerry Butler to record.” Naturally, the young vocalist was disappointed. “I felt duped and wasn’t pleased,” she said.

She inspired her own debut hit

Warwick greatly respected Bacharach, but the disappointment of losing out on "Make It Easy on Yourself" stung her enough to speak up. “I was on my way down to do a session with them and when I walked into the studio,” she explained to The New York Times in 2023, “I had to let them both know that I was not very happy about them giving my song away, first of all. That was something that they could never, ever do. Don’t even try to change me or make me over. So David put pen to paper.” And Warwick’s very own words went on to inspire her first big hit. But there was much more to come.