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Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager wrote this for the 1982 movie Night Shift
, where it was recorded by Rod Stewart and played over the closing credits. This version was not released as a single, but the songwriters thought it had lots of commercial potential and had Dionne & Friends record it in 1985. The song hit the top spot on January 18, 1986 and stayed there for four weeks - the only other song that lasted as long at the top that year was "Walk Like An Egyptian
" by the Bangles.
Bacharach and Bayer Sager, who were married in 1982, wrote another 1986 chart-topper together: "On My Own
" by Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald. That one stayed at the top for three weeks.
"Dionne & Friends" is Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight. They recorded this song as a single to raise money for the American Foundation For AIDS Research (AmFAR). AIDS was a widely misunderstood disease in 1985, and this recording helped draw attention to the cause and educated people about the disease. Proceeds from the song raised over $500,000 for AmFAR.
The Dionne & Friends version won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance by A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Song Of The Year. Surprisingly, the Performance award was Elton John's first Grammy - somehow none of his previous material was deemed worthy.
Warwick was one of the first artists to reach out to the AIDS community by recording this song. She explained: "It was kind of given to the problem itself to raise funds and awareness. Those who felt they didn't want to be involved with it-to be seen giving money or being heard talking about the crisis-that song was an avenue to reach out without any stigma."
Warwick was also asked how this song has endured in other arenas outside of the AIDS connection. The singer replied: "I've gotten into wonderful conversations regarding the song being used for graduations, weddings, births, somebody's birthday, or just friendship in general. You know, in all of those instances, they get it."
The four vocalists on this song each recorded their parts separately. Bayer Sager, who produced the song with Bacharach, said that putting it together was like doing a jigsaw puzzle. The singers did all come together for the music video. "It was a very emotional evening in which a lot of tears were shed," Bayer Sager said.
"Dionne & Friends" was originally just Dionne. She recorded a string of hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the '60s before an acrimonious parting with the songwriters. She finally reunited with Bacharach to record the theme song to a short-lived 1984 TV series called Finder of Lost Loves. Bayer Sager suggested that Warwick record "That's What Friends Are For," but when Dionne heard it, she envisioned it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. Dionne put down her tracks, and when Wonder arrived to do his part, Elizabeth Taylor and Neil Simon dropped by. Knowing of Taylor's commitment to AIDS research, Bayer Sager suggested they made the song a charity effort, and all agreed it was a great idea. They decided to add another singer to the mix, so Gladys Knight was invited. The last piece of the puzzle was Elton John, who was suggested by Clive Davis, head of Arista Records (which released the single).
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