Saturday, September 15, 2018

"That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne & Friends

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2528
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  67
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Charity

Pop Bits:  Warwick and her main songwriter/producer Burt Bacharach hadn't worked together in over a decade due to a falling out that they had. But time heals wounds and the pair got back to working together for the 1985 theme song to the TV show Finder of Lost Loves. With their relationship rekindled, the pair (along with Bacharach's wife at the time Carole Bayer Sager) decided to work on songs for Warwick's next album. This specific tune got overlooked the first time around (see below), yet after hearing it Warwick wanted to record it, but not by herself. She wanted it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. After Warwick recorded her part, Wonder was brought into the studio. For his visit, Bayer Sager invited a friend of hers to watch - Elizabeth Taylor. With Taylor present, conversations started about her work with AIDS charities. Warwick was sensitive to the issue wanted to bring more attention to the disease and those affected, especially since at the time it was still something not widely talked about as there were stigmas attached. Bayer Sager then suggested that perhaps the song could be a charity single to benefit AmFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research). The idea was put in motion and they decided to bring on two more star vocalists to help with the sing. R&B superstar Gladys Knight signed on to be the third vocalist and the fourth person to come on board was Elton John. All the vocal parts were recorded separately and then stitched together in the studio. When finished, the song was issued out as a single. It would end up hitting #1 at Pop, R&B, and AC. It would also go on to win two Grammys - one for Song of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Its four weeks at #1 helped the tune become the #1 charting song at Pop for 1986. In the end, the song would raise over $3 million for AmFAR. Although all four vocal parts were recorded separately, Warwick, Wonder, Knight, and John got together to film the song's video.

ReduxReview:  This was the perfect song for the perfect cause done by the perfect stars and released at the perfect time. The lyrics were just right and gave a supportive message, which is what was truly needed at this point in time. The song and its celebrities did a lot to bring attention and knowledge to the AIDS crisis and helped to erase some of the horrible negativity and neglect that was going on. For that, this single certainly gets a 10+ rating. Looking at just the song itself, it's well-written and sentimental without being too saccharine. Yet had Warwick recorded this as a solo song and released it as a single without the charity aspect, would it have done as well? Very doubtful. I might have even listened a couple of times and then ignored it. The tune might have scored well at AC, but I don't think it would have been a blockbuster #1. It was really the star power brought to the song by all four vocalists along with the cause that made it work.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was originally written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager for the 1982 film Night Shift starring Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton. The song would server as the closing credits' theme. It was performed by rock superstar Rod Stewart. The track would not be issued out as a single. The film was critically well-received but only did moderate business at the box office.  2) The original fourth voice on this song was Luther Vandross. Although at the top of the wish list for the last vocalist was Elton John, those involved didn't know if they could get him to come on board. So they first decided to do it with Vandross, who came in and recorded his part. Yet when it was all done, Bacharach and Sager just though the song still needed a bigger star that could provide a standout vocal. When they finally reached out to John, he accepted and participated in the project.


1 comment:

  1. I've never liked this song--so schmaltzy and corny. On the other hand, Jody Watley's "Friends" hit the nail on the head with its astute observations.