Hump Day Slow Jam of the Week: Dionne Warwick, “Heartbreaker”
The Singer: Dionne Warwick is best known for her mid-’60s work with Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“Walk on By,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” etc.), but some of her best work came after she parted ways with the soft-touch duo. “Then Came You,” her 1974 collaboration with the Spinners, is a slice of disco-funk heaven, and today’s slow-jam, “Heartbreaker,” is a standout even for a performer who made her name singing broken-heart songs.
The Song: “Heartbreaker” was the biggest hit from Warwick’s collaboration with Barry Gibb and his brothers Robin and Maurice in the Bee Gees. Gibb wrote all of the songs on the 1982 album Heartbreaker, continuing his run of songwriting and production hits for other songwriters that include “Guilty” for Barbra Streisand and “Islands in the Stream” for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. The jarring synthesizer line that opens the track is a bit off-putting for a slow jam, but the rest of the tune glides along with conviction, righteousness, and, of course, heartbreak.
The Video: For this Spanish television performance, Dionne splits the difference between lip-synching and live performance. While the instrumental track is clearly being piped in (despite the presence of several tuxedoed musicians), you can hear Dionne singing over her own pre-recorded vocals in a glorious multi-Warwick chorus.
Hipster Cachet: John Darnielle, the peerless singer/songwriter behind the Mountain Goats (and former RFT contributor), has championed Warwick. His chapter in the collection Marooned (in which writers choose their desert-island discs) was focused on Warwick’s Legends collection, which collects her late-period work. Darnielle told the Raleigh/Durham paper The News & Observer why he chose such an unlikely disc: “You know, I'd rather listen to Dionne Warwick 'til I die than anybody else.”
-- Christian Schaeffer