Dionne Warwick knows music.
For nearly 60 years, she’s delivered hit songs in her distinct, buttery voice.
In the 1960s, Warwick encouraged us to “Walk on By." In the ’70s, “Then Came You” became her first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In the ’80s “That’s What Friends Are For” — with Warwick singing alongside Gladys Knight, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder — became one of the most popular songs of the decade.
Warwick, 78, has earned six Grammys (including the 2019 Grammy Lifetime Achievement award) and has sold over 25 million albums and 75 million singles, according to Billboard — and she’s not done.
In October, she released her 38th studio album, Dionne Warwick & the Voices of Christmas.
She talked with The Inquirer recently about the new album and shared her thoughts on the current state of music. This is an edited and condensed transcript.
What made you want to record a Christmas album?
Christmas is my favorite time of year. And I only have one Christmas CD, so it was time for another one.
You collaborated on it with artists like Aloe Blacc and Chloe x Halle. How did you go about choosing who you wanted to work with?
I chose the songs first, then started matching the artist to the songs. I think I did a pretty good job.
Are these artists you listen to regularly?
No, they are people that I have heard and of course, I had the help of my son Damon Elliot who produced the CD. He knew Aloe Blacc as a friend and he reached out to him and asked if he wanted to be a part of the CD, which was wonderful — just as everyone else that was on the CD. They all wanted to be a part of it, which made it that much more fun and so much easier.
Was this your first time working with your son on an album?
Oh no, he’s done my last three or four projects.
Philadelphia is home to some of the best soul singers in the business. Did you ever perform here earlier in your career?
Absolutely. I don’t think there’s anyone in the industry who hasn’t.
What was it like for you?
Oh, it was wonderful, and it still is. I worked in Philadelphia during a tour with Sam Cooke. That dates back to the ’60s. I received the Marian Anderson Award in 2017.
How do you define a great singer?
First off, someone who loves their craft. Someone who has an idea of what a melody actually is about and sticks to it. And I guess that’s basically it. In Philly, there’s Patti LaBelle, and of course, there was Teddy Pendergrass. There’s a wealth of talent coming out of Philly.
» READ MORE: Patti LaBelle honored with her own Philly street
What do you think is missing from today’s musical scene?
(Laughing) We don’t have enough time. But I don’t know that there are any songs that we’re going to still hear 30 years from now.
I don’t know, it’s not for me to say. Music has an incredible way of evolving and continuing to go on, so I can’t say we won’t have classics. But if you’re asking me if I’ve heard any, no. I haven’t.
Do you know a song is a classic the moment you record it?
I would be sitting on a mountain of rubies if I knew.