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Don't Make Me Over - Dionne Warwick

While the link of the subject of interviews in the last few posts may be over, the word linking the last couple of songs isn't.

In 1962, Dionne Warrick, at the age of 21, was a singer with the Gospelaires, who provided backing on a host of hits from the New York soul scene, including singles by the Drifters, Chuck Jackson, Ben E King and Solomon Burke among others. It was while recording one such song that producer Burt Bacharach noticed the strength and range of her vocal and offered her work recording his and Hal David's songs as demos to be hawked around record companies as vehicles for their artists. Upon hearing her singing one of these, "It's Love that Really Counts", later recorded by the Shirelles, legendary Scepter Records owner Florence Greenberg famously said: "Forget about the song, get the girl".

At the same session that she had sung "It's Love that Really Counts", she also recorded a demo of Bacharach/David's "Make It Easy on Yourself" which she now considered "her song" and wanted to re-record as her first single, and was extremely miffed when they told her they'd already let Jerry Butler have the song. She threw a tantrum and stormed out of the studio with the parting words "Don't make me over, man". The line caught the imagination of the producer/songwriter team, and soon a contrite Bacharach and David were knuckling down and using the phrase to come up with Dionne's first single and first US hit.

There was a misspelling of her name on the single's label - "Warwick" instead of "Warrick" - so they elected to go with that to save future confusion, so there was always a sense that she was indeed being "made over" right from the start. Certainly, the kind of catchy, poppy songs that Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote for her were not necessarily the best vehicles to show off her powerful gospel voice and singing range, but it is precisely the tension between the "nice, pretty tunes" they wrote for her and her barely suppressed soulfulness that make her hits of the sixties so memorable. Beneath the ordered tidiness of the easy-listening orchestral arrangements there's always a smouldering "attitude" beneath the surface, threatening to explode.

Here it does, of course, the memory of that first session still rankling, as she sings,

"Accept me for what I am,

accept me for the things that I do",

a moment of assertiveness by a young African American woman in the face of white record producers, songwriters, label owners, musicians and just about everyone else in that studio.

She made her point, showed she was her own woman and it set her illustrious career in motion, So maybe, after all, it was a kind of interview, and she passed with flying colours.


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