By Phill Marder
Of all those ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thus far, DIONNE WARWICK may be the most puzzling of all. If it’s because she is considered easy listening and not Rock, the induction of Abba should cure that problem. But it’s a misconception, anyway, for under the guidance of Burt Bacharach (more on him later), Warwick was responsible for some of the most memorable rhythm & blues recordings of the early ’60s. As a result, she became one of the most successful female recording artists of the Rock age, both in singles and albums.
From her start as a background singer for the Drifters and demo provider for the Shirelles, Warwick steadily provided a string of hits. Yes, some bordered on the easy listening side, but many were almost heavy, starting with her first hit “Don’t Make Me Over” followed by “This Empty Place,” also done by the Searchers, “Make The Music Play,” also done by the Drifters, “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “Walk On By,” “Reach Out For Me,” a cover of Lou Johnson’s version, “You Can Have Him,” a cover of Roy Hamilton’s big smash, “Message to Michael,” also recorded by Johnson in addition to Jerry Butler as “Message To Martha,” “Are You There (with Another Girl),” covered by the Buckinghams, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” covering Tommy Hunt’s version, “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” done by too many artists to name, and a cover of Butler’s “Make It Easy On Yourself.”
In the ’70s, she combined with the Spinners to hit No. 1 with “Then Came You.” In the 80s she paired with the Bee Gees for the top 10 “Heartbreaker” and with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder in the No. 1 “That’s What Friends Are For,” hosted the TV show “Solid Gold” and made a prominent appearance on the “We Are The World” single. Also, some of her album cuts such as “Wishin’ & Hopin’,” copied almost note for note by Dusty Springfield, and “Close To You,” done by the Carpenters, provided the groundwork for other artists to have hits.
She’s won Grammy Awards, appeared in film and participated in countless charity events. This could go on and on. The bottom line is that her accomplishments have eclipsed almost every female singer and most male singers of the Rock age, many of whom already have been inducted. In one year, Warwick, recording for the tiny Scepter label, had more records in the top 10 of the Hot 100, the chart that measures all music, than inductees Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker did combined in their entire careers. While Brown and Baker put many singles on the R&B charts, check Warwick’s record. She held her own with both on the R&B singles chart and crushed both on the R&B album charts. Springfield, also already inducted, was one of Rock’s great female voices, but, again, her accomplishments pale compared with those of Warwick. Of course, Springfield, Brown and Baker recorded for Atlantic Records and the co-founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, was chairman of the Hall of Fame. That might explain Warwick’s exclusion.
Suffice it to say, if Warwick had recorded for Atlantic she would have in the Hall of Fame years ago.
Then again, last year Wanda Jackson, who recorded for Capitol, was inducted while Warwick still waits. I’d love to hear the explanation for that.
BURT BACHARACH & HAL DAVID – Almost every great songwriting pair of the Rock & Roll era has been inducted. But not the greatest of all?
This duo not only wrote more hit songs than any combo in history, Bacharach, with his incredible productions and arrangements, changed the face of Rock & Roll. Suddenly, Rock could be classy as well as crude, brilliant music as well as primal energy.
If this pair has been snubbed because they weren’t rock enough, consider this partial list of artists who have recorded their works. Those in bold already have been inducted into the Hall of Fame:
The Beatles; The Shirelles; The Beachboys; BJ Thomas; The Buckinghams; The Carpenters; The Drifters; Gene Pitney; Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass; Jerry Butler; Manfred Mann; Marty Robbins; Chuck Jackson; The Searchers; Ray Charles; Tom Jones; The Walker Brothers: Gene McDaniels; Charlie Gracie; Frankie Avalon; The Turbans; Tommy Hunt; The Isley Brothers; Cliff Richard; Bobby Vee; Timi Yuro; Steve Alaimo; Jay & the Americans; Ray Peterson; Linda Scott; Bobby Vinton; Adam Wade; Paul Anka; Brook Benton; Maxine Brown; Jackie DeShannon; Freddie & the Dreamers; Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas; Irma Thomas; Cilla Black; Trini Lopez; Rick Nelson; Dusty Springfield; Lenny Welch; The Fifth Dimension; Mark Lindsay; Susanna Hoffs; and, of course, Dionne Warwick, who became one of the era’s biggest-selling artists primarily by recording Bacharach-David compositions.
In addition, Bacharach compositions written with other lyricists have been recorded by Elvis, Stephen Bishop, Gene Vincent, Etta James, Gloria Lynne, Del Shannon, Marv Johnson, Tammi Terrell, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Pointer Sisters, Christopher Cross, Nicolette Larson, Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond, Roberta Flack, Quarterflash, Rod Stewart, Peabo Bryson, Melissa Manchester, Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald, Kenny Rogers, Natalie Cole, Ray Parker Jr., Chris DeBurgh, Desmond Child, James Ingram, The Stylistics, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago and Johnny Mathis to name just a very few. Then throw in recent collaborations between Bacharach and Ronnie Isley and Bacharach and Elvis Costello and you’ve got an impeccable resume.
Every pair of composers currently in the Hall of Fame deserves to be there. But the first songwriting duo inducted should have been Burt Bacharach & Hal David. No pair has written more timeless classics. As Debbie Harry once commented, “If you can really get it together in three minutes…that’s what pop songs are all about.” And that’s what Bacharach & David were all about.
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