Dionne Warwick explains why she had such a problem with Cilla Black

24 June 2024, 15:10

Dionne Warwick and Cilla Black at the London Palladium
Dionne Warwick and Cilla Black at the London Palladium. Picture: Getty Images

By Mayer Nissim

"If I'd sneezed, she would have done, too."

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At the start of the 1960s, Dionne Warwick was one of the premiere singers in the business, knocking out hit after hit after hit, with songs like 'Walk on By', 'Alfie', 'I Say a Little Prayer' and 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'.

All of those songs were written by the peerless team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and British fans will immediately spot that a couple of those songs were also hits for our very own Cilla Black, which resulted in a fair bit of friction between Dionne and Cilla over the years.

Given that in the 1960s top acts covering one another's hits were far from unusual, some may wonder why Dionne was always so critical of Cilla's takes on "her" songs, especially 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'.

Not for the first time, Dionne has explained that the issue wasn't Cilla doing the song, but the arrangement and vocal performance being so closely based on her own.

Dionne Warwick (Live 1964) - Anyone Who Had A Heart

"I haven't always been comfortable with some of the cover versions of my biggest hits," she told The Guardian.

"I am – always was – a big fan of Dusty Springfield. But I wasn't happy with some of the other British singers who sang my songs."

Dionne added: "I don't blame Cilla for her interpretation of 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'.

Cilla Black - Anyone Who Had A Heart (Live)

"I later met her – she was a nice woman, really cute. My complaint was that the treatment of the song wasn't just similar to mine, it was identical.

"If I'd sneezed, she would have done, too. In other words, they copied it."

It's worth noting that the Bacharach/David songs performed by both artists, despite being written with Warwick in mind, 'Alfie' was actually recorded by Cilla before Dionne.

Cilla and Dionne, face-to-face
Cilla and Dionne, face-to-face. Picture: Getty Images

As it was written for the Brit film of the same name, Paramount wanted a UK singer to perform the track, so they got in touch with Cilla Sandie Shaw.

Sandie turned down the track, which is how Cilla became the first performer, with Bacharach doing the arrangement and production by George Martin.

In the US, the first person to have a hit with the song was actually Cher, before Dionne took it to number 15 in the charts in 1967.

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