Music Updates

Don’t Make Her Over: Dionne Warwick Is Still Crushing It at 80

Sitting at her kitchen table in New Jersey today, dressed in a gray quarter-zip sweatshirt and a fuzzy white beanie, Warwick still exudes a kind of elegance — though maybe not so much restraint. For the first time in her career, due to the pandemic, she’s enjoying extended idle time at home, and she rattles off her typical night’s schedule: “Seven o’clock, I watch Jeopardy. Seven-thirty, I watch Wheel of Fortune. Then, at eight, Netflix.” Has she taken up any new hobbies, like cooking more or gardening? Warwick, it turns out, is vehemently opposed to the latter: “First of all, I am not a person to dig in dirt. Anything that flies, crawls or scurries, I don’t want to know about that, OK?” she says with a laugh. (Some fans doubt Warwick is firing off her own tweets, but she does deliver the same biting one-liners in person.) “Anybody that knows me knows I have total brown thumbs. I mean, I killed a cactus.”

She took to her one new hobby naturally though. “My mom literally just got Wi-Fi set up in her house maybe right before the pandemic,” says her son and manager, the music producer Damon Elliott, 47. “She had dial-up modems.” Then, in December, Elliott suddenly started getting calls from friends: “ ‘Are you seeing what your mom’s saying on Twitter?’ I’m like, ‘What? What is my mom doing?’ ”

“I’m not a daily Tweeter,” demurs Warwick. “I don’t wake up and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to tweet!’ ” Still, the internet awaits her 280-character missives with collective bated breath. Her niece Brittani Warrick (“Warwick” was a typo on Dionne’s first single that stuck), a social media strategist, taught her how to use the site. “She really wants to talk,” says Warrick of her aunt. “She likes to talk. Once you get her talking, she doesn’t stop.”

Which might mean she’s asking her followers to explain Gen Z slang, or confessing that she’s a Nicki Minaj-loving Barb, or, as in her greatest interaction yet, putting artists with “the” in their stage names on blast. “Hi, @chancetherapper,” she wrote in December. “If you are very obviously a rapper why did you put it in your stage name? I cannot stop thinking about this.” She tagged The Weeknd next. “If you have ‘The’ in your name i’m coming for you,” she wrote. “I need answers today.” And answers she got: Both men replied gamely, star-struck at being called out by a legend. (“I will be whatever you wanna call me Ms. Warwick,” said Chance.) Warwick has famously declared “I am not writing a bio” in her Twitter profile — but for a minute, she rechristened herself Dionne the Singer.

Long before his mother emerged as the new queen of social media, Elliott was busy reifying Dionne the Singer’s legacy — “screaming, hooting, hollering,” as he puts it, for her to get her flowers while she’s still healthy and active. Those efforts most recently helped Warwick garner her first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination; Elliott says he’ll be pushing for the Kennedy Center Honors next. And the “Twitter situation,” as Warwick calls it, seems to have coincided nicely with a desire to get back to work. A week after we chat, she’ll (virtually) join Chance in their first recording session for a charity single, and she’s planning one with The Weeknd too, a “feel good” track Elliott says is “based around the issue of homelessness.”



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