Living legend Dionne Warwick was sitting on her bed sporting a rather cozy-looking sweat shirt and a million-dollar smile on a recent Zoom call. But the smile dimmed to about $25,000, and a look of concern flashed in her eyes when the pillow talk turned to the sudsy Netflix series “Bridgerton.” Specifically the news that one of its stars, Regé-Jean Page, would not be returning for its second season.
“I was devastated when I heard he was leaving,” the songstress says of Page, a man who can melt ice cream with a single glance. “I said, ‘You can’t do this to me. You do not want me coming over to England to straighten this out. Trust me, you don’t.’”
Warwick took to Twitter to convey her “Bridgerton” disappointment, as she has been known to do over the past year. In a strange twist of fate that only could have happened in 2020 (and continue into 2021), Warwick has ascended to social media royalty. The 80-year-old singer, best known as Burt Bacharach’s muse and the calming voice that is always there to remind us that we should not walk on by San Jose, added “Queen of Twitter” — she now has more than 530,000 followers — to her resume last year. It’s another chapter to her storied career. It may not be as illustrious as her dozens of hits from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, but she’s happy to ride along.
I ate an entire bag of Quaker Butter Popcorn Rice Crisps the other day. I twote this for those wondering how the pandemic is going for me.— Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) January 30, 2021
It’s worth noting that Twitter isn’t the only technology that Warwick has embraced since the pandemic began. She performed a livestream concert on Easter, and she’s doing it again Sunday with two performances for Mother’s Day (details at www.boxoffice.mandolin.com).
But it’s her playful exchanges with “the babies” on Twitter that have put Warwick in the recent spotlight. They’ve become so popular that “Saturday Night Live” spoofed her with hilarious results.
“I turned it on, and there she was (Ego Nwodim, who plays Warwick in the sketches), calling Billie Eilish ‘Billie Eyelash,’ and I fell out of my chair,” Warwick says. “I thought it was wonderful. I laughed as much as everybody else did.”
Warwick is also enjoying the sketches (there have been two so far) because “they may not know it, but they’re keeping Dionne Warwick alive. My name is back out there, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
And as she laughed about “SNL” and Twitter, the million-dollar smile radiated once again over Zoom. It seemed as good a time as any to jump in with some hard-hitting questions.
Q. I’m going to warn you that I’m a Dionne Warwick fanboy, so you’re going to be getting some deep-dive questions from me.
A. OK, I’m ready for it.
Q. I think my favorite album of yours is 1969′s “Soulful,” which didn’t feature any Bacharach songs. It felt like such a revelation the first time I heard it. You really let loose in a way that I don’t think a lot of people would expect from you. I’m wondering if it was tough to belt out something so raw instead of taking your usual smooth approach? Your version of “We Can Work It Out” is incredible.
A. That album came from a desire to sing those particular songs. You know, I was as much a fan of those songs as anybody else. When I was offered the opportunity to do it, I felt “Yeah. OK. Let’s really find the right songs, the right musicians, and the right atmosphere.” I had the best time doing it. I really did.
Q. When those Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs were written in the 1960s, it seemed like every female singer, particularly in England, wanted to record them. Did you ever feel like singers were swooping in and trying to steal those songs away from you before you had a chance to record and release them?
A. A lot of them just seemed to wait to see what was coming over next. Once they heard a piece of music that they felt they could handle, they’d try it. Not too many people can sing Bacharach and David, so they chose the simpler ones. Those songs were written specifically for me.
Q. So when you heard Sandie Shaw’s version of “(There’s Always) Something There to Remind Me,” what did you think?
A. Well, let’s put it this way: It was very different from my interpretation. I think that’s the diplomatic way to say it.
Q. I’m excited for your upcoming Mother’s Day concerts. I missed your Easter Sunday concert. Tell me about the setlist.
A. I did everything that everybody expected me to do, of course. A couple of things I haven’t done in quite a while. I went back in time and found some songs that I miss myself. And, as it turned out, everybody seemed to be very pleased with my choices. Before I started rehearsing for the show, I had not sung a note in over a year. There were a couple of creaks and croaks, but no one seemed to notice.
Q. Thank you for letting me nerd out. I’d better stop here before I start asking about your amazing 1970 television special. But one more quick nerd question: Are there any songs from your catalog that you wish you never had to sing again?
A. No, and I can honestly say that because each one of those is the reason why I’m talking to you. I’ve heard a lot of the artists say, “Oh, I have to sing the song again.” and my response is always “Yeah, you better sing that song.”
Q. Not to dwell on Twitter, but let’s go back and talk about Twitter for a moment. I’m just wondering why you decided to take the plunge and if you ever thought you’d be a Twitter superstar?
Please stop and think “Would I say this to my Nana?” ...If the answer is NO then don’t say it to Dionne Warwick (Also somebody’s Nana)😂— Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) January 4, 2021
A. It’s a very pleasant accident. I watched my nieces and nephews one afternoon at home. They were just laughing and giggling and carrying on. I said, “What’s going on?” They told me they were on Twitter, and I said “What’s Twitter?” They were having so much fun that I wanted to get in on it. So they set me up. I wanted a laugh too. But when I was on, I noticed that there were some not very nice things being said. So I went on Twitter and told these babies, “You know, that’s not nice.”
I say things that give food for thought. Now that I’m there they’re feeling the presence of a grown-up, and a grown-up who has the ability to be straight up and honest. They respond to that, which is wonderful. They’ve gotten to the point where they’re asking me questions and I’m giving them honest answers. That’s what they’ve all needed. It’s easier to leave with a smile than anything else. And I think that’s what they’re really getting. I love to laugh, and I love to smile, so let’s all try practicing that.
Interview was edited and condensed.