Dionne Warwick Shares How Elvis Presley Gave Her Career a Huge Boost

American singer Dionne Warwick reading a well-wishing telegram from Dusty Springfield at her London hotel, 20th May 1964
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Singer Dionne Warwick was recently honored at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors. The 83-year-old took the time to look back on her impressive career, including the time that the late Elvis Presley gave it a boost! Warwick started performing at a young age with her mother and siblings as the Drinkard Sisters as well as singing in church. She recalls her first standing ovation at six years old after singing for the congregation.

In the 1960s, her career took off after working with lyricist Hal David and composer Burt Bacharach. She released songs including “What the World Needs Now,” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” which would become classics. She admitted, “I thought we were very strange because of what we were doing musically; nobody else was doing that kind of stuff. Nobody sings five different measures in five different time frames – but I do. Why? It was something that I found quite refreshing … We were kind of pioneers.”

Portrait of American singer and actor Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) holding a 1965 Gibson EBS-1250 Double Bass (a combined 6-string and bass guitar), circa 1966. Elvis is seen playing the guitar in his 1966 film, 'Spinout'

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1969, she met Elvis Presley while they were both performing in Las Vegas. She shared about meeting the King, “Oh my God, was he pretty! He said, ‘I’m gonna make an announcement tonight at my show that anyone who goes into a record store and they [buy] any Dionne Warwick album, they will find a photograph signed by me.’ I sold more albums in Vegas than I have ever sold!”

Dionne Warwick performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

These days, she’s an icon and even gained a new title in recent years: “Queen of Twitter” for her quippy tweets (Twitter is now known as X). She said that she started getting “saucy” on social media because she felt it was the only way to get people to listen.

Watch Warwick along with Billy Crystal, Renée Fleming, Barry Gibb, and Queen Latifah receive the honor at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors on CBS at 8 p.m. ET on December 27, 2023, or stream on Paramount+ after.

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Pop Music Legends

August 2017

Dedicated to the sights, sounds and stories of the golden age of pop.

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