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Steppin' into the Screen | Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over

Dionne Warwick’s documentary, Don’t Make Me Over, is a story of one of the greatest told by many of the greats.

Screening at Melkweg, Amsterdam 12th of April - tickets here!

Her presence in the world has been monumental, from religious to musical and political stages. Told in this documentary through the voices of friends, family, and those for which she was an inspiration, 'Don't Make Me Over' is the ultimate 'how to' guide to becoming an icon.

The documentary goes chronologically through Warwick’s life, starting with her place in the church choir and commitment to schooling, her life-changing Apollo Theatre performance, touring the Southern American states, and her introduction to Europe and 'couture' by Marlene Dittrich (If name dropping were a sport this documentary would go home with gold).

We see Warwick's career as a signer flourish whilst she stays committed to staying true to herself, not settling for anything less than what she thinks is right. A woman whose sense of self-worth is never contested, the fierceness behind her angelic voice is shown without even watching the film, as the documentary title, 'Don't make me over' as well as the title of her first single, is also a quote from the singer herself. We're told in the documentary by Warwick that she was promised the song 'Make it easy on Yourself' by Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis as her first single, but this song was then given to Jerry Butler. So as a young new singer in the industry she, of course, went to two of the greatest songwriters of all time and told them 'One thing you do, is you do not make me over'.

This blazing flame never burns out throughout her lifelong career, shown through a particular anecdote by Snoop Dogg where he admits to having been ‘out-gangstered’ when confronted by Warwick about his misogynistic lyrics.

Is Dionne Warwick a legend?... Is pig pork? – Snoop Dogg

Her longevity and far-reaching presence in the musical sphere make her a timeless icon. This can be seen through the woman herself and the incredible names that have partaken in this film. From archive footage of Whitney Houston to interviews with Alicia Keys, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, (takes a breath) Carlos Santana, Bill Clinton, Elton John, the late Burt Bacharach, and even more.

She had the untitled role as a mediator between white and black music, being the first African American to win the pop category of the Grammys. Although facing criticism and discrimination, with album covers picturing her as a woman with blue eyes, blonde hair and white skin, Warwick states that moments where she was performing to black and white audiences showed how ‘music transcends colour’.

Her stature as a peacemaker was propelled further than music; she became one of the first figureheads in the Aid’s movement, donating all the proceeds of a song that could have gotten her out of bankruptcy to the epidemic, became a United States health ambassador and continues to be outspoken about black women rights.

This documentary goes beyond looking at Warwick as the amazingly talented singer she is, but also as someone whose place on earth has caused an essential and needed rupture. Her likeable personality is addictive and shown in the film through archival footage and present-day interviewees, with the singer depicting a timeless smile which bursts through generations.

This is a story for every family member because even if you haven't played a Warwick, Hall and Bacharach collaboration, your parents or grandparents most definitely have, so sit back, relax and be ready to hear some beautiful songs that will for sure conjure up some amazing memories.


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James Brown
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