Dolly Parton and Dionne Warwick are two of the most enduring legends in popular music, with careers that stretch back more than five decades. At 76 and 82, respectively, they’re still going strong. Just yesterday, Warwick, who is the subject of a new documentary, Don’t Make Me Over, announced on the Tamron Hall Show that she’ll be releasing a collaboration with Parton later this month. The news, of course, was met with excitement and cheers from Hall and her audience. Here’s what we know about this meeting of two brilliant musical minds.
How did Dionne Warwick and Dolly Parton’s duet come about?
In the Tamron Hall interview, Warwick said that Parton, who she describes as “a sweetheart,” sent her a song she’d written titled “Peace Like a River.” An accompanying note said Dolly wanted to record the song as a duet. Warwick expressed her enthusiasm and alluded to the long list of exceptional performers — artists like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Barry Manilow, Reba McEntire, and more — with whom she’s recorded. She said that the Dolly duet feels particularly special.
Both Warwick and Parton are women of faith who hold gospel music close to their hearts. Raised in a musical family that performed religious songs, gospel has been a part of Warwick’s life since childhood. In a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, she said, “At the beginning of my career the only music I listened to was gospel. That was my first love.” The singer even had her own gospel group, The Gospelaires, early in her career. In 2022, she told Woman’s World that “I pray all the time, and I truly believe God put me here for a purpose. And whatever it was that He put me here for, I must be doing right because God’s still having me do things.”
Parton shares a similar affection for gospel. She was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and has recorded albums in the genre including 1971’s Golden Streets of Glory and 1999’s Precious Memories. She’s spoken often about her faith, telling Country Weekly in a 1999 interview that “Gospel was an important part of life in the Smoky Mountains where I grew up… And religion was a part of everyday life.” As she described it, “We were brought up in a church where, if somebody wanted to get up and sing or shout, they did. There was a feeling of freedom there.”
What is the connection between Warwick and Parton?
Both Warwick and Parton are gifted, trailblazing musicians who have continued to win new generations of fans — Warwick with her clever, viral Twitter presence, and Parton with her commitments to philanthropy and all things camp. Both singers are self-assured without forgetting their roots, and their mutual status as veterans in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to women is inspiring. Given that both are known for duets and were already friends, it’s surprising they didn’t collaborate sooner.
Warwick and Parton share another connection: Warwick’s cousin is, of course, the late Whitney Houston, who famously covered Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It became a smash hit that, like Dolly’s original, remains popular to this day. With just a few small degrees of separation between them, the upcoming Warwick/Parton collaboration makes perfect sense. In the Tamron Hall Show interview, Warwick acknowledged that the connection felt “preordained.” We can’t wait to hear “Peace Like a River” — it’s sure to be a gorgeously moving example of the two women’s prodigious talents.