Roush Review: Dionne Warwick Is Always in Tune in ‘Don’t Make Me Over’

Dionne Warwick in 'Don't Make Me Over'
Review
CNN

“Is Dionne Warwick a legend? Is pig pork?” Of all the many celebrity testimonials in Don’t Make Me Over (premiering January 1 on CNN), including a touching tribute from the late Olivia Newton-John, Snoop Dogg’s puckish salute may be the least expected.

Elsewhere in this admiring and enthralling biographical documentary, Snoop recounts the time Warwick beckoned him and other rappers to her home to call them out and chide them for their misogynistic lyrics.

“We got out-gangstered that day,” he says, approvingly.

Throughout her illustrious six-decade career, shown generously in vintage performance footage, Warwick has never held back her opinions or her passion for advocacy: for civil rights and for AIDS research. (Her AIDS-era anthem “That’s What Friends Are For” reaped millions in donated royalties.)

Don’t Make Me Over follows her slow but steady rise from singing gospel in her New Jersey family church to winning the Apollo’s amateur night in 1957, putting herself through college by singing background until she ultimately demanded the name recognition she deserved.

Her rare ability, ahead of her time in the 1960s, to cross over from R&B to top the pop charts with those intricate Bacharach-David classics (“I Say a Little Prayer,” “Alfie”) gave Warwick a platform to promote social change and open doors for a new generation of Black artists, including her first cousin Whitney Houston.

Even so, the industry didn’t always know where she fit in, and Warwick proudly displays a European record cover displaying a white woman’s image.

“I ain’t white. I am a tempting, teasing brown, OK?” quips Warwick, who achieved international fame as a style as well as music icon.

“That’s the beauty of music: It transcends color,” reflects Warwick, who at 82 embodies Smokey Robinson’s loving description: “Always the picture of elegance.”

Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, Documentary Premiere, Sunday, January 1, 9/8c, CNN