Dionne Warwick talks about Twitter, her activism and more ahead of Detroit concert

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

With one of the longest, most successful singing careers of anyone touring today, Dionne Warwick will grace Detroit with her presence this week. 

The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is one of the most charted vocalists in history and is known for many songs including "Walk On By," "I Say a Little Prayer" and 1962's "Don't Make Me Over," which is also the title of a new CNN+ documentary about her career.

Singer Dionne Warwick will perform at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts on July 15.

Warwick, who is Whitney Houston's first cousin, has also recorded songs from several film soundtracks and has duetted with everyone from Johnny Mathis to Chance the Rapper. 

In the past few years as she remerges to the stage after the pandemic break, she's made news for her no-nonsense, but funny demeanor on Twitter, and was introduced to a new generation with a recurring impersonation by comedian Ego Nwodim on "Saturday Night Live." 

We caught up with the 81-year-old living legend for a conversation ahead of Friday's performance at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, for which there are only a few tickets remaining. 

Q: What can fans expect at your concert in Detroit Friday?

A: It's what they expect to hear from me, of course. I have to sing those songs, which I love singing. They're just going to get Dionne. 

Q: There have been many social causes that you've supported throughout your career including AIDS research and LGBTQ rights, and earlier this month you appeared at an gun safety event called "Enough" in New York City with John Cameron Mitchell, Amanda Palmer, Macy Gray and others. Why is this cause important to you? 

A: I think it's necessary to think not only for me but for concerned people, about this gun issue. It's just gone completely bonkers and we have to do something about it. We can't just idly sit by and allow these people to walk through the streets and arbitrarily shoot anything and anybody that they want to. Some kind of law has got to be passed. 

I think everybody that was attending were very concerned about the issue itself and a lot of people that I did not know that performed, but were local talents in New York and a few country singers that are making headway within the country arena. Some wonderful talent there. 

Singer Dionne Warwick.

Q: A new documentary about your life and career, "Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over" on CNN+ has gotten rave reviews from audiences, critics and film festivals. How does it feel to have such a warm reception for this?

A: Incredible. You know, the fact that that many people want to know that much about me (laughs). It was well-received in all the festivals that we attended and it makes me feel good to know that people have continued to embrace me and my music. 

We did the festivals and the reception was absolutely incredible and after that success, it was a case of entities coming after me and asking me, we want the documentary, which is wonderful to hear and know. As a result of that, CNN won out the bids and here we are. 

Q: You know I'm going to ask you about Twitter, and I'm sure every journalist asks you about Twitter now. What have you learned from leaning into the platform as you have as of late, and what surprised you? 

A: People are amazing. I'm finding that thoughts are very interesting. Their responses to my tweets are very, very responsive, and fun.

I got to the point where I felt those that were on Twitter needed to smile a little more and so doing everything that I have posted, if you've noticed, at the end of it, there is some laughter or a smile. That's the way everything should end, is with a smile. 

It had gotten to the point where people were trashing people, I mean vividly. I said nah, nah, nah ... that's not what this media is for. It's to get to know people, get to understand people and to interface with them and to basically make friends. That works, too.

I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I think the presence of a true grownup on Twitter has kind of entered the avenue of 'oh' ... let's see what she has to really say. I let people know that I'm going to ask questions and I expect answers. They can ask questions and they'll get an answer. That's the way that I've kind of been able to sustain relationships that I've garnered over these couple years that I've been actively involved. 

Grammy winners Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie pose together backstage at the Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles, on February 26, 1986.

Q: You were recently impersonated on "Saturday Night Live" by Ego Nwodim, what did you think of her skit? 

A: I thought it was the most hysterical thing I've ever seen. It was a joy to know that she was having so much fun with it. They reached out to me and since they had created this entity they said 'would you do it' and I said 'of course,' why not?

Q: What are you most looking forward to your visit to Detroit?

Detroit has been so very good to me over many years that I've visited you and performed there. I'm just looking forward to a good time as we always have. 

Q: What's next for you either later this year or in 2023?

I'm going to be recording, of course. I'll be doing my concerts. I won't be running around like I had recently as much (laughs). I'm planning to kind of slow down a bit, because it's at that point in time, and just enjoying Dionne for a minute.


Twitter: @melodybaetens

Dionne Warwick

8 p.m. Friday

Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts

350 Madison, Detroit

(313) 887-8500 or musichall.org.

$50 and up