Dionne Warwick

That's what friends are for!

Four decades after winning her first of five Grammy Awards, musical icon Dionne Warwick is still packing them in at concert halls and coliseums around the world. Last month it was the London Palladium, the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow and Munich's Philharmonie im Gasteig.
In March, following a concert at the Palace of Arts in Budapest, the acclaimed singer will make a stop on Hilton Head Island to headline the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina's major fundraiser of the year. Proceeds from "A Special Benefit Event with Dionne Warwick" will benefit the Arts Center's extensive education and outreach efforts.

"We're thrilled, absolutely thrilled," said Arts Center President and CEO Kathleen Bateson. "Dionne Warwick is huge. She's a legendary artist who boasts a list of hits few can match."

Fifty-six to be exact. According to Billboard Magazine, Warwick is second only to Aretha Franklin as the female vocalist scoring the most Billboard Hot 100 chart hits during the rock era of 1955 to 1999. She was the first African-American solo female artist of her generation to win a Grammy for Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance and the first to appear before the Queen of England at a Royal Command Performance. 
While other African-American female recording artists had their share of crossover pop and R&B hits during the 1960s, she was the first such artist to rack up a dozen consecutive Top 100 hit singles. By the end of 1971, Warwick had sold an estimated 35 million singles and albums internationally.

It's no wonder the Arts Center is billing her performance as the concert event of the decade.

"This is an artist who typically performs in major metropolitan areas in much larger venues," Bateson said. "We're getting to see her right here in a very intimate theater setting."

To build excitement for the benefit event, the Arts Center will host a pre-concert Champagne Reception Wednesday, March 26, at the prestigious Morris & Whiteside Galleries. The celebration will include a silent-auction and the presentation of the 2008 Reflection Society Award to the Heritage Classic Foundation for its longtime support of the Arts Center.

The Warwick Gala Benefit Concert takes place Saturday, March 29 at the Arts Center. The festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with an elegant cocktail reception, followed by a live auction in the Elizabeth Wallace Theatre. At 8:30 p.m., Warwick will take the stage, performing such classics as "I Say a Little Prayer," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

Originally a gospel singer, Warwick sang frequently as a teen with her family's gospel group, the renowned Drinkard Singers, at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. On one such occasion, she recalled in her 2002 A&E Biography, a man came running frantically backstage looking for backup singers for a session with saxophonist Sam "The Man" Taylor.
"Old big-mouth here spoke up and said 'We'll do it!' and we left and did the session," Warwick recounted. "I wish I remembered the gentleman's name because he was responsible for the beginning of my professional career."

The chance encounter led to regular session work in New York with some of the biggest stars of the 1960s. Renowned composer Burt Bacharach was so impressed with her voice, he asked Warwick to sing on demonstration recordings he used to pitch his songs to record labels.
When the president of Scepter Records heard her on the demo, "It's Love That Really Counts," he told Bacharach, "forget the song, get the girl!" Warwick was signed to the label in 1962 with Bacharach and lyricist Hal David as producers.  The partnership turned out to be one of the most successful in music history. In all, Warwick recorded 30 hit singles and almost 20 best-selling albums written by the legendary songwriting team, among them, "Walk on By," "Message to Michael," "This Girl's in Love with You," "Reach Out for Me" and "Alfie."

She switched to Warner Brothers Records in the '70s, hitting the top of the charts again with "Then Came You," a million-selling duet with The Spinners. In 1976, after earning a Master's Degree in Music from her alma mater, The Hartt College of Music, she signed with Arista Records.

Barry Manilow produced her first platinum-selling album, Dionne, which included mega-hits "I'll Never Love This Way Again" and "DËj· Vu." Both recordings earned Grammys, making Warwick the first female artist to win the Best Female Pop and Best Female R&B Performance awards.
In 1985, she won her fifth Grammy for the AIDS charity single, "That's What Friends Are For," written by Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager. Five years later she teamed up with several other Arista artists to raise more than $2.5 million for various AIDS organizations during the star-studded "That's What Friends Are For" Benefit in New York's Radio City Music Hall. She was also a key participant in the all-star charity single, "We Are the World." 

Looking back on his longtime affiliation with the pop star, Hal David said, "Singers come and go through the years and only a few remain in the memory of everyone who has heard them and Dionne Warwick is one of those."

Tickets are $225 for the Warwick Gala Benefit Concert or $300 for a special VIP package that includes admission to both events - the Gala Benefit Concert and the Reflection Society Champagne Reception - as well as a private reception with the singer prior to the concert. Tickets for the Reception Society Champagne Reception kickoff only are $50. Call the Arts Center's development office at 686-3945 x 239 to reserve.

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