Whether it was fate or some guiding hand that brought Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick together back in the 1960s, the combination of talents made musical history. The trio amassed 30 hit singles and 20 best-selling albums in their first decade together, as Warwick turned David's poetic lyrics and Bacharach's catchy tunes into timeless classics.
With a career that includes more than 15,000 lifetime concert performances and five Grammy awards, one might think Warwick would be ready to retire her golden voice. But the 73-year-old legend shows no signs of slowing down.
Still one of the hardest-working entertainers in show business, she plans on giving some 65 concerts across the United States and around the world this year, including an appearance next weekend at Reed Green Coliseum with the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
This past April, to celebrate her 45th year in show business, Warwick also released a DVD featuring mostly Bacharach-David songs recorded during a recent world tour.
But this Saturday, Warwick will ask friends Patti LaBelle, Patti Austin, Ann Nesby, and Vesta Williams if they know the way to Hattiesburg, not San Jose, as they gather to pay tribute to another famed song writer, Southern Miss alumna, Tena Clark.
"I've known Tena for many years," said Warwick, in an e-mail, and whose first Christmas album was produced by Clark in 2004. "Her association with my sons is how I first met her. She was a joy then and is still a joy to know."
Hal David, the lyricist who penned such classics as "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," was likewise not short on praise for Clark's talent.
"She came to my attention in the 1980s," said David, by phone from his office in Los Angeles. "I thought she was brilliant. Now she's being honored in Mississippi where she graduated from, and it's well deserved."
Not surprisingly, David's voice also glows when he speaks of his 40-year long association with Warwick. "She can sing anything I write," he said. "I can hear how she will sound right in my ear before she evens sings (a new song)."
"United in Song: A Tribute to Tena Clark and Her Music" will feature only songs that Clark has written, said the orchestra's music director, Jay Dean.
"If it weren't for her, none of these artists would be coming here to perform," said Dean. "It's sort of like the Grammys come to Hattiesburg."
Clark graduated from Southern Miss in the 1970s before moving to Nashville and eventually Los Angeles where she is now founder and chief executive officer of DMI Music and Media Solutions. She wrote songs for "My Best Friend's Wedding," "French Kiss," "Twins," and the "Police Academy" movies, as well as television's "Desperate Housewives." Her songs have been used in commercials for such companies as McDonald's and she has produced records for many artists including LaBelle, Warwick and Chaka Khan.
"Her talent speaks for itself," said Warwick. "It was wonderful working with her and I look forward to doing it again."
"All these artists have a very close relationship with Tena," Dean said. "When asked if they would perform in Hattiesburg they all said 'Sure, we don't know where it is, but we'll be there!'"
Mixing a traditionally classical orchestra with pop music artists has Maestro Dean excited.
"There will be people in the audience who have never been to a symphony concert, but are coming to see singers like Dionne Warwick perform," Dean said. "So who knows what doors that might open."
Dean says some 500 students from Hattiesburg public schools will attend the concert.
"One of my missions is to change someone's life," Dean said. "I know there's that kid in the audience who has never been to an event like this and because of the artists or orchestra he or she sees, it will turn on a light bulb. Whether that leads to an interest in music, or medicine, or some aspect of technology, it's an experience that will affect that person's future."
Tickets are $20-$29. For details, call (800) 844-8425.
See profile of Tena Clark, 1C