Chart Week: November 20, 1982
Song: “Heartbreaker” – Dionne Warwick
Chart Position: #28, 7th week on the chart. Peaked at #10 for two weeks in January 1983.
Dionne Warwick has had an amazing career. Hits upon hits, all kinds of notable and interesting personality quirks, a side-career that kept her in the public eye, becoming Twitter famous, and most recently the subject of a bizarre yet endearing Saturday Night Live parody.
I bet most people probably think she’s a little nutty, but in the warmest possible sense of the word.
I did not realize, until I heard this countdown, that her nuttiness went way back. Casey shared an anecdote about how a visit with an astrologer in 1971 changed the course of Dionne’s career. Although not always in the way she had hoped.
Warwick met with the astrologer seeking career advice. Her long run of big hits in the 1960s had dried up. How could she get her mojo back?
This person looked at their star charts, gazed at their runes, peered into their crystal ball, or whatever the hell performance they went through while conjuring up their stories, and told Dionne that she needed to add an “E” to her last name. Why? Because this magical letter was powerful and would add energy to her aura or chi or some such bullshit and get her career back where she wanted it to be.
Warwick followed the advice. It worked for a minute.
She partnered with The Spinners under the name “Dionne Warwicke” on the number one hit “Then Came You” in 1974. This broke a stretch of nearly five years without a Top 10 song, and was the first number one track of her career.
That bump from the extra E was short-lived, though. Her career and personal life went into the tank shortly after.
Warwicke’s songs barely cracked the Hot 100 or didn’t chart at all for the next four years. She clashed with the producers she worked with. Her album sales plummeted, to the point that Warner Bros. dropped her. Adding insult to injury, she also got divorced.
In 1978 she came to her senses and dropped the “E,” going back to plain, old Dionne Warwick. She soon signed with Arista records and brought in Barry Manilow as her producer. Within a year, she was back in the Top Ten when “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” peaked at #5.
I wonder how Warwick looks back on these days, and how she allots credit and blame. If she gives that astrologer credit for “Then Came You,” don’t they also deserve blame for the four barren years that followed? I’m guessing she was sympathetic to that person, as the third act of her public life was as a spokesperson for the Psychic Friends Network.
Again, nutty but nice.
Dionne Warwick was always a little too old, both physically and culturally, and a little too schmaltzy/adult contemporary for me. This song, though? It is solid. There’s an easy explanation for that: it was one of the last big songs that The Bee Gees were responsible for.1 The brothers Gibb wrote and produced Warwick’s Heartbreaker album. She wasn’t crazy about this song, but gave in to Barry Gibb’s insistence that it would be a hit. Later Maurice Gibb said he regretted giving it up, believing it could have propelled The Bee Gees back onto the charts.
You can’t miss all that Bee Gees DNA inside the track. Their harmonies are unmistakable. They were so freaking good at writing hooks and melody. Warwick delivers her lines expertly. This was the 28th Top 40 hit of her career. She had one more monster hit a few years down the road, but it was the product of one of the biggest collaborations of the Eighties. This wasn’t a bad way to end her Top Ten career as a solo artist. 7/10