The pop classic, which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, became one of her biggest hits and sold over 3,500,000 copies

By Liz McNeil
May 08, 2019 10:00 AM
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It’s been over five decades since Dionne Warwick recorded one of her biggest hits, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” — and she still isn’t crazy about the song.

The pop classic, which was written by Burt Bacharach, with lyrics by Hal David, became one of her biggest hits and sold over 3,500,000 copies.

“I did not want to sing or record ‘San Jose,'” Warwick, 78 tells PEOPLE. “It was not one of my favorite songs that Hal David wrote. I just couldn’t imagine Hal writing a lyric that had ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa….'”

“I said to him, ‘How could you?'” she adds with a laugh. “I sang it because of the affinity he had for the song and cried all the way to the bank. What can I tell you?”

Warwick’s collaborations with Bacharach and David on such beloved records as “Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” became classics and made Warwick a star. One of the world’s most recognizable voices, she’s still identified by them — no matter who else has sung them.

“They’re definitely my songs,” she says. “Even with the multitude of others singing those songs, they still know whose song it really is.”

Dionne Warwick
Credit: Christian Witkin

In this week’s PEOPLE, Warwick talks about her songs, old and new, and her upcoming album, She's Back, produced by her son Damon Elliott, which comes out on May 17.

Despite the album’s name, the vocal legend really never left. “I don’t know what it means to slow down,” says Warwick, who has won five Grammys, as well as a sixth earlier this year for Lifetime Achievement. “I love what I do,” she says. ‘I don’t consider it work. It’s just an extension of me.”

Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach
| Credit: Everett

Warwick was just 21 years old when Bacharach heard her singing back up with her group, the Gospelaires, and asked her to record a demo of some of his songs. She was “shy,” Bacharach recalls, and wearing sneakers. Still, he says, “she had the look of a star. There was something about her.”

The world would soon agree. Warwick went on to sell over 100 million records.

Born Mary Dionne Warrick, she grew up surrounded by music in East Orange, New Jersey. After the record company misspelled her surname on her first album, the name stuck. “I was very miffed,” she says. “I expressed that to my grandfather and said, ‘How could they dare do this to me?’ He said, ‘Just look at it as your professional name.’ I still didn’t like it but I became a ‘wick’ instead of a ‘rick.'”

And the rest was pop music history.

For more from Dionne Warwick, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.