Marie Dionne Warrick — more widely known as Dionne Warwick — was born on December 12, 1940 in East Orange, New Jersey. Warwick’s mother, aunts and uncles were members of The Drinkard Singers, a popular family gospel group originating in the 1930s.
Warwick began singing gospel at a very young age at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, frequently joining The Drinkard Singers on stage and even on local television stations throughout New Jersey and New York.
Warwick was raised in a racially mixed, middle class East Orange neighborhood; she later stated during an interview with The Biography Channel in 2002 that it was “literally the United Nations of neighborhoods.” She went on to explain that “We had every nationality, every creed, every religion right there on our street.”
Warwick graduated from East Orange High School in 1959. She received a scholarship in Music Education from the Hart College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, where she earned a Master’s Degree and, later, an honorary doctorate in Music Education.
Warwick experienced a successful career as a back-up singer, but it was in November of 1962 that the New Jersey-native released her first solo single, “Don’t Make Me Over,” with Scepter Records. The song, which became a Top 5 U.S. R&B hit, is responsible for Warwick’s surname change; Dionne Warrick’s name was misspelled “Warwick” on the single; as a result, the singer began to use the name professionally and personally. Warwick’s solo career rapidly took off; producing tracks like “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Walk on By.”
Despite the famous “British Invasion” and a number of other cultural shifts throughout the years, Warwick remained popular; she produced quality music throughout the decades. Warwick is an icon, right up there next to Aretha Franklin; she remains one of the most popular female vocalists of the 20th century.
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