The versatility and range of Dionne Warwick is magnificent. While she is often bracketed as an “easy listening” singer, a close listen to her catalogue reveals plenty of soul; big emotive power ballads; gospel-like intensity; feisty pop; and prowling funk. When taking a career-long perspective on the best Dionne Warwick songs, she is a singer that is hard to categorise. “I tell people I don’t want to be anyone else,” Warwick has said. “I like me. I don’t want to be anyone but who I am.”
The songs that Warwick is most usually associated with date from the 60s, and are written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. They can almost be seen as a musical genre in themselves. These are songs that are too emotional for easy listening, too smooth for R&B, too adult for pop, too earnest for irony. The association between Warwick’s voice and the songs of Bacharach and David was so strong that the songwriting duo would usually think of her as they were writing. “The more that Hal and I recorded with Dionne and the more we wrote, the more chances I could take because I could see what she could do,” Bacharach has said of working with one of the best female singers of all time. “I would think to myself, if she can cover that range, then I can take that risk a little bit more if she is that musical. Therefore, I was able to expand and stretch when working with her.”
In latter times, Warwick has been the subject of a documentary (Don’t Make Me Over), written her autobiography, continued the charity work that has long been a passion of hers and found time to take down a few idiots on Twitter (her tweets were even included in a 2021 art show in the US). “Everything you saw, heard, and will hear or see has always been a part of me, and will always be a part of me,” Warwick said in 2021. “I am and will always be relevant.” The best Dionne Warwick songs prove all that and more.
Listen to the best of Dionne Warwick here, and check out our best Dionne Warwick songs, below.
20: (They Long To Be) Close To You (from ‘Make Way For Dionne Warwick’, 1964)
In this list of the best Dionne Warwick songs, there are many tracks that are better-known in a version by someone else – but often Warwick’s will predate that famous recording, sometimes by many years. Here is her early treatment of the Bacharach-David song that would become a huge hit for Carpenters six years later. With its odd funereal piano and weeping flugelhorn, the Warwick version of (They Long To Be) Close To You is dramatic and borderline weird. It gives a different, sadder, tone to the song.