March 30, 2012 10:00 pm

The Inventory: Dionne Warwick

‘My ambitions? The Oscar, the Emmy and the Tony – not necessarily in that order,’ says the American singer

Dionne Warwick, 71, began singing professionally in 1961. Since then, she has had more than 60 charted hits and sold more than 100 million records. She is also well known for her humanitarian work.

What was your earliest ambition?

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I was born into a family of gospel singers. My early ambitions were many. I was going to be a ballerina. I almost had that one come true until I tore a tendon, so I transferred from my toes to my throat and that’s where the talent settled.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

I started at Lincoln School, New Jersey, now the Dionne Warwick Institute – it was renamed and that was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. Then I went to Vernon L. Davey Junior High School, then East Orange High School, then the Hartt School of Music where I gained a doctorate of musical education. The thinking was that I’d be a teacher but then I had a hit record, which knocked that out of the road.

Marlene Dietrich©Alamy

Icon: Marlene Dietrich

Who was or still is your mentor?

First and foremost, my family. When I entered into this industry of ours I was surrounded by the icons of the world. People like Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich and Sammy Davis Jr. all walked me down this path of entertainment.

How physically fit are you?

I’m in pretty good shape. I try to be cognisant of when and how and what I eat and get as much rest as I possibly can, as that helps the vocal cords.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

A little of both, but talent is what really sustains you.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Dionne Warwick's coat of arms

It would be a photograph of my entire family, that’s my coat of arms.

How politically committed are you?

I’m pretty committed.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

We’re rapidly in the process of losing the planet, and we all have to wake up and take notice.

Do you have more than one home?

No.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

I’d like to see a world free of strife, stress, pain, hunger, war – a cool place where everyone could live.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

My grandchildren.

In what place are you happiest?

My home, a place of comfort for me – and with my family, of course. Anywhere that deals with music.

What ambitions do you still have?

The Oscar, the Emmy and the Tony – not necessarily in that order.

What drives you on?

The love of what I do. The feedback that I get from my audiences. Making people happy.

Pointe shoes©Dreamstime

Early ambition: to be a ballerina

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The birth of both of my sons. No achievement could be greater than that.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve had that many disappointments that have been that great.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

In a word: wow.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I’d be teaching.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

I don’t believe in suicide of any kind. It’s God’s call, not yours.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes, I do. I believe there is much more than what we’re living.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Ten. I’ve had an incredible time thus far and so much more left to do. I feel I’ve got at least another 100 years to go.

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Dionne Warwick is performing at the Royal Albert Hall on May 28, World Hunger Day, and then on a UK-wide Jazz FM tour. Details at www.worldhungerday.org; www.jazzfm.com

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