Dionne Warwick - The Bacharach & David Songbook


Mai 3 2011, 17h26

Geographically, the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway, Manhattan, New York, is a short distance from the original 'Tin Pan Alley', which was at West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth. However by the late fifties, the heart of the popular music publishing business had moved between the two locations. The Brill Building was where many famous song writing partnerships were formed. One such partnership was between composer/arranger Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David.

Their songs are often classified as , and indeed they often receive the musak treatment in building lobbies and other public spaces. However, these songs have much to challenge the performer, and a good performance of one will reward careful listening.

Hal David's lyrics generally talk about the ordinary and they have a ring of truth about them. They address big issues like love and heartbreak, small town and big city. However, they feel like intimate conversation, rather than epic storytelling or polemic speechifying.

Burt Bacharach's music is more challenging and characteristically unusual chord progressions, striking syncopated rhythmic patterns, irregular phrasing, frequent modulation, and odd, changing meters. His original arrangements are also memorable; for example, who can forget the flugelhorn figure immediately after the phrase 'walk on by' in the song of the same name.

Burt actually performs his own songs. He has a passable voice, but it takes a better vocalist to really do them justice. On one hand, the tone intervals and note lengths are demanding, in and of themselves. On the other, the lyrics require subtle emotions to be conveyed.

The vocalist with whom worked most closely was Dionne Warwick. Dionne was the scion of a very musical family. Whitney Houston is a cousin. Indeed, I think that the two ladies looked similar before Whitney's reincarnation as a crack-head.

Dionne hits every note on the nail: perfect pitch and timing. (This may not sound a lot to ask of a professional singer, but, as previously noted, Burt's songs are challenging in both respects). Her enunciation is crisp and her voice is pure. Her breath control is so awesome, that you never notice it.

Many of these songs were specifically written for Dionne, and she often had Burt in the studio conducting. So while there are many fine versions of many of these songs, the chances are that Dionne Warwick's version is closest to the music that was playing in Burt's head while he was composing.


  • Babs_05

    Great journal and songs. Always loved them. You're right, they are too easily overlooked. Their appeal is enduring and not without good reason, which you've covered brilliantly. Don't know why, but I thought Dionne Warwick was Whitney's aunt. Maybe I'm thinking of someone else. Thanks for this.

    Mai 8 2011, 12h32
  • rwitte

    Thanks for the comment,babs. I had also believed that they were aunt and niece until I was doing my fact checking for this article. I think that, given the age difference, they would have treated each other like different generations in the family.

    Mai 8 2011, 13h40
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