Across the waters of New York City, the New Jersey sound was causing
a giant ripple through the souls of music lovers during its musical
infancy of the 1960’s. One young lady contributed to that sound by
combining her gospel roots to R&B becoming part of an ever growing
music evolution called 'soul'. Presenting... Ms Dee Dee Warwick.
Born Delia Warwick in 1945, in East Orange, New Jersey, (nicknamed
Dee Dee) her mother Lee with
uncles Larry and Nicolas, Emily ( Cissy Houston) and Ann, her aunts,
formed the Drinkard Singers. Dee Dee and her Dionne, sang in the
choir at the New Hope Baptist Church, in Newark, NJ.
Their uncle Larry, formed the Gospelaires that included Dee Dee,
Dionne and their cousin Myrna Smith (who later joined the Sweet
Inspirations). The Gospelaires got their first job as background
singers on Sam 'The Man' Taylor’s song 'Won't You Deliver Me' on
Savoy Records in 1960.
The Gospelaires began doing background work for Savoy artists like
Big Maybelle and Nappy Brown
and later Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Gene Pitney and The
Drifters. After being discovered a from a background session for the
Drifters with a tune called 'Mexican Divorce' Dionne Warwick pursued
a solo career and recorded her first hit penned by Burt Bacharach
and Hal David entitled, 'Don't Make Me Over’ on Florence Greenberg’s
Scepter label, making her a bonafide pop star.
Gospelaires continued working by adding Cissy Houston, Estelle Brown
and Sylvia Shemwell (formerly with the Drinkards Singers) to their
repertoire, doing sessions with Esther Phillips, Chuck Jackson,
Aretha Franklin, Garnet Mimms and Nina Simone. Background singers on
Garnet Mimms’ 1963 classic hit ‘Cry Baby’ were the Gospelaires.
Dee Dee was discovered by Ben Mullarkey and Michael DeVilleo (who
became her managers) after hearing a demo she recorded for a shoe
company. Her first release was a classic composition by legendary
songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller entitled ‘You're No Good’
on Jubilee Records in 1963. Betty Everett’s version on Vee Jay
Records, tied the No. 8 R&B singles spot in Cashbox Magazine
with Dee Dee, the week ending Sat Jan 4, 1964.
Dee Dee recorded another Leiber & Stoller single on their Tiger
Records label, 'Standing By' but didn't gain airplay. She cut a
cover of Ben E. King's masterpiece of 'I (Who Have Nothing)' on Hurd
Records and later signed with Blue Rock (a subsidiary of Mercury
Records in 1964.
Ed Townsend (who recorded the 1958 hit ‘For Your Love’ on Capitol)
and Teacho Wiltshire, were assigned as her producer and arranger.
Dee Dee co-wrote with Ed Townsend on ‘You Don’t Know (What You Do To
Me)’ and played drums on her first release on Blue Rock ‘Do It With
All Your Heart'.
‘We're Doing Fine’ written and arranged by Horace Ott became her
first hit (No 28 R&B Aug 14, 1965). ‘I Wanna Be With You' the B side
was Dee Dee's first top ten R&B smash charting (No 9 the week ending
Oct 29, 1966). The song was composed for Sammy Davis Jr. for his
1965 Broadway appearance in Golden Boy.
Dee Dee’s last single on Blue Rock, ‘Gotta Get A Hold Of Myself' b/w
'Another Lonely Saturday' (Baby I'm Yours)’ and 'A Second Chance'
never achieved airplay or chart status. In February 1966, Dee Dee
shifted over to Mercury Records and was assigned new producers,
singer /songwriter Lou Courtney (who released the dance classic
‘Skate Now’ on Riverside Records in Jan 1967) Bob Bateman and Ron
Moseley for her next session.
She didn't retrieve a musical feel for their productions. Mercury
re-issued 'I Wanna Be With You' and set a trip across the Atlantic
to London to appear on the popular music show ‘Ready Steady, Go'.
While there, her managers set a recording session for her with a
forty piece orchestra to record the incomparable 'Alfie’. It was
produced by Johnny Franz and arranged by Peter Knight for a movie of
the same title starring Michael Caine.
Dee Dee learned the song from a demo though it’s originals
composers, Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Dionne recorded the song and sold a million (No. 5 R&B.No. 15 Pop)
in the spring of 1967 while Dee Dee’s version remained in the can
for a few years. Dee Dee.said that Dionne didn't even considered
doing the song before her and forgets to mention her version
provided her with a great demo. Dionne's was the 42nd version
Dee Dee went to the studios in Philadelphia (her first to be exact)
in Oct 1966, with producer Jerry
Ross and churned out two beautiful ballads ‘Yours Until Tomorrow’
and ‘I'm Gonna Make You Love
Me’ (written by Kenny Gamble, Jerry Ross and Jerry Williams). The
latter hit (No. 13 R&B Feb 26, 1967). An LP ‘I Wanna Be With You’
was released in mid spring of 1967. The album is a rare find in the
Madeline Bell released her version on the Phillips
label in early 1968 hitting (No 32 R&B and No 26
Pop) while the Supremes and the Temptations’ version
went gold in early 1969. Dee Dee was upset when the
Motown tune did better and traveled to Chicago to
have a meeting with the people at Mercury.
The gorgeous and haunting ‘When Love Slips Away
b/w ‘House Of Gold’ was released in the spring of
1967 (No. 43 R&B June 10) making it Dee Dee’s
last attempt to remain on the music charts for the next two years.
After her two year stint with producer / songwriters
Gamble & Huff (who were on their way to become
legends in the music business) Dee Dee grew tired
of having hitless songs and decided to go back to
Ed Townsend. Her joint reunion with Ed took place
in Nov 1968 and nearly cost her a genuine hit.
The song was ‘Foolish Fool’. Dee Dee thought Ed
was nuts! She didn’t like the song and threatened
to walk out. Her Aunt Cissy (Houston) stopped
her and told her to go back and sing that song!
Dee Dee didn’t understand the repeated words
in the lyrics, ‘foolish foolish foolish’ but became
more creative and began to relate to the song
because people were interfering in her way of
‘Foolish Fool’ hit (No 14 on R&B singles chart
the week ending Sat, April 19, 1969) earning
her a Grammy nomination. A self-titled LP
released in the summer of 1969 hit No. 30 on
July 5. The flipside ‘Thank God’ was a beautiful
inspirational song (backed by the Teaneck Choir)
written by Ed Townsend and Dee Dee’s father,
who never received any songwriter’s credit and
was present at her sessions. ‘That’s Not Love’ No. 42 R&B June 21, 1969) was her next follow
up. She recorded a title track for the movie 'Ring Of Bright Water’ arranged by jazz artist
Bobby Scott. Her last recording date with
Mercury was a remake of her ‘I (Who Have
Nothing)’ with Bill Medley of the Righteous
Bros., who she didn’t get along with.
Dee Dee left Mercury Records and signed with
Atco. She had a (No 9 R&B) hit with ‘She
Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking)’ with
the Dixie Flyers (on June 27, 1970), 'Cold
Night In Georgia’ b/w ‘Searching’, (No. 44
R&B March 13, 1971) and 'Suspicious Minds'
(No. 24 R&B July 3, 1971). An album, 'Turnin'
Around’ was released in mid 1970.
In 1972, Dee Dee resigned with Mercury Records,
shortening the letters of her name to Dede and cut
two tunes ‘All The Love That Went To Waste’
and the unbelievable flipside, ‘I Haven't Got
Anything Better To Do’. She continued to
record under various labels such as RCA, Sutra
and Heritage, throughout the 70’s and 80’s. ‘Get
Out Of My Life’ (No 73 R&B May 1975) on
Private Stock was her last charted song.
Dee Dee’s musical contribution was finally awarded by the R&B
Foundation in February 1999.
Although she was overshadowed by her sister
Dionne, Dee Dee’s talent will always be honored
by her powerful dramatic performances that have
seethe though the souls of our inner spirits and she will
continue to be the keeper of the soul sounds of New
Dee Dee…. We thank God for you!
(Chancellor of Soul)
Material should not be used or altered without expressed
permission of the
author, Mike Boone, (Chancellor of Soul)