Soul Serenade: Dionne Warwicke and Spinners, “Then Came You”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

Dionne Warwicke and Spinners

soul serenade - spinners dionneYes, you’re reading that title correctly. For a few years in the ’70s, Dionne Warwick added that ‘e’ to the end of her last name because her astrologer convinced her that that ‘e’ would add balance to her name, and bring her good fortune. By 1975 Warwick realized that alteration of her name had been a mistake, and went back to the spelling that the world was familiar with. Another strange thing about the label credit is that the Spinners are just credited as Spinners, without the definite article before their name. Name changes aside, when Dionne Warwicke and Spinners got together with legendary Philly Soul producer Thom Bell in 1974, the result was pure magic, not to mention a huge hit.

The recording came at an interesting time for both Warwick and the Spinners. The group, sometimes known as the Detroit Spinners in acknowledgement of their hometown, had been recording for more than ten years when they signed with Atlantic Records in 1972. Although they’d had some chart success with records like “I’ll Always Love You,” and “It’s a Shame,” they weren’t exactly setting the music world on fire. That all changed when the group decided to leave Motown when their contract expired in 1970. The only problem was that one of the group’s lead vocalists, G.C. Cameron, still had a contract with Motown, and had to stay behind as a solo artist. But Cameron convinced his cousin Philippe Wynne to take his place, and the rest is Spinners, and soul music, history.

Working with Thom Bell, with Wynne sharing lead vocals with Bobby Smith, the Spinners sent a stream of hits into the charts that resulted in them becoming one the most successful soul groups of all time. The indelible ’70s hits included “I’ll Be Around,” “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “Mighty Love,” “Games People Play,” and “The Rubberband Man.” To say that the Spinners were on a roll in the ’70s is an understatement.

Dionne Warwick, on the other hand, seemed to be on the downside of her career in 1974. In fact, “Then Came You” was the only hit she had in the ’70s, after her smashing success working with Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the ’60s. Oddly, Warwick didn’t even like the record, which featured Smith and Wynne (at the end of the song) singing lead for the Spinners, when it was finished. Bell knew that it was a smash though. A hundred dollar bill was torn in half.

“I told her, ‘If it doesn’t go number one, I’ll send you my half.’ When it took off, Dionne sent hers back. There was an apology on it,” Bell said.

Not only did “Then Came You” become a #1 hit, it was, incredibly, Warwick’s very first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. And although she went on to renewed success in the 1980’s, Warwick had no other major hits in the ’70s. Meanwhile, the Spinners rolled along with hit after hit in the decade.