#RespectYourElders: Dionne Warwick may be best known as one of the biggest gospel, R&B and pop singers of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. She was also one of the first celebrities to begin advocating for AIDS research in the 1980s, and continues to do so today.
Warwick (born 1940) grew up singing gospel music at her church in Newark, New Jersey, and was raised by a musically inclined family. Many of her family members were part of the Drinkard Singers, a renowned gospel group.
Like her family members, Warwick pursued a career in music and released her first single, “Don’t Make Me Over,” in 1962, which became her first top 40 pop hit and top five United States R&B hit. Throughout her career, 56 of Warwick’s singles made the Billboard Hot 100, two of which were #1: “That’s What Friends Are For” and “Then Came You.”
Warwick has also received numerous awards throughout her musical career, including a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Déjà Vu,” both in 1980. She also received an RIAA USA Gold record award for the album “Heartbreaker” and contributed to the multi-Grammy Award-winning song “We Are the World,” a charity song for the United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa.
Warwick has been one of the most notable celebrity advocates for AIDS awareness. She began speaking about it in the early 1980s, when few people understood or spoke up about the disease. Warwick worked with Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight to put together the song “That’s What Friends Are For,” which turned into a chart-topping anthem for AIDS advocacy, and raised millions for research.
Warwick continues to advocate for AIDS awareness, and recently visited the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology. In a meeting with patients and researchers, she spoke about her commitment to keeping up AIDS awareness until there’s a cure. “I’ve dedicated my being to be a part of it until that train ride I got on at the beginning has finally found its destination,” she said in a recent Washington Post article. “We’re going to all work toward making that happen.”
Warwick continues to advocate for charitable causes like AIDS research, and also still performs. In 2017, she sang at the Chicago’s Center on Halsted in 2017 for an event co-chaired by Rahm Emmanuel and Barack Obama, supporting the LGBTQ community.
Read more about Warwick’s contributions and commitment to AIDS advocacy in this Washington Post article.