(To commemorate the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame's 40th Anniversary in 2013, GRAMMY.com has launched GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inspirations. The ongoing series will feature conversations with various GRAMMY winners who will identify GRAMMY Hall Of Fame recordings that have influenced them and helped shape their careers.)
As with many people from her generation, Diane Warren's romance with pop music started with the mystique held in a stack of 45 RPM singles. But while most kids mimed to recordings by singing into a hair brush as they danced around, or strummed along with a broom or tennis racket as an ersatz axe, Warren's focus was elsewhere.
"I wanted to be the name in the parentheses," she says, remembering those times growing up in Southern California's San Fernando Valley.
Warren is referring to the small type under the song title, the place where credit was given to the songwriters.
"One of the first songs I heard was 'Up On The Roof' by the Drifters," says Warren. "[I] just loved it. It was my sister's single. I remember looking at who wrote it, [and I] saw the names Goffin and King. I was probably about 7. Isn't that interesting? I always remember having that thought with that record."
Warren stands today as one of the most successful songwriters of contemporary popular music. Her name has been in the parentheses for more than 100 charting songs, from Laura Branigan's 1983 Top 10 hit "Solitaire" to such recent blockbusters as Cher's "You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me" from 2010's Burlesque and Beyoncé's "I Was Here." All-stars such as Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Faith Hill, Roy Orbison, Barbra Streisand, and Tina Turner are among the many artists who have recorded her songs.
Along the way Warren picked up a GRAMMY for Celine Dion's 1996 recording of "Because You Loved Me," a song Warren wrote in tribute to her father. More recently, she's particularly proud of having two nominations in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category at last year's 54th GRAMMY Awards for Cher's "You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me" and Justin Bieber's "Born To Be Somebody" — two artists nearly 50 years apart in age.
"That's cool," says Warren. "How often do you see that?"
Looking through the recordings enshrined in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, Warren had trouble narrowing it down to five choices to portray the key turns in her development. But the recordings she chose show someone committed not just to the craft of songwriting, but the distinction and individualist nature of both writers and performers.
Meet The Beatles!
"The first album I ever bought. [I] went to Thrifty Drugs, [and] made my mom buy that. I was a kid, I was 7. 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' I remember that. We all kind of were under the spell. Most of the stuff I loved as a kid still holds up. Those are still great pop songs and hold up as well as anything. I never thought about the Beatles as people, but loved the songs. [I] saw A Hard Day's Night, but didn't get into all the other stuff, the Beatlemania. [I] just loved the songs. Well, I was a Beatlemaniac, but I just loved the music. And they did some pretty cool cover songs."
"Like A Rolling Stone"
"I remember certain songs growing up that hit [me] over the head. [I] didn't even know what it was really about, but had a psychic thing with this song. About eight years ago I was thinking about this one, turned on the radio and five minutes later it was on! This wasn't a song he could have sent to any other artist of the day. It was all about him. But I wasn't aware of himbeing a singer/songwriter. I didn't even think he wrote it himself when I first heard it. I didn't have the single, so [I] didn't see the songwriter's name on it. "
"Jimmy Webb [the song's writer] influenced me so much. I remember loving that song. It had so much heart to it, and one of the best lines in any song ever: 'And I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time.' How ingenious is that line? It's about being simple and saying it."
"'All In Love Is Fair' is such a great song. A friend of mine and I were talking about it. The melody, the pain — I love songs with pain in them, obviously. A song like that, sung like that. We are so lucky, being from that time. Look what we grew up with. That was better. [It] really is. Waiting for the new Stevie Wonder album was better than waiting for the new … [I'm] not going to say names, because I work with these people. But the artistry and hits, the level of songwriting — everything was fresh. Now it sounds like a robot is making it. As a songwriter I consider myself beyond lucky to grow up with these influences."
Prince & The Revolution
Warner Bros. (1984)
"Prince at the peak of his brilliance. Those songs and the other songs he wrote, they all became him. I don't care about the other stuff if the songs are not great. But he was one of those artists you went, 'Holy s***! What's he going to do next? What's the next song or album going to be?' And this was arguably his best. The whole package, the movie — a little time capsule of greatness."
(Diane Warren won a GRAMMY for Best Song Written Specifically For A Motion Picture for "Because You Loved Me [Theme From Up Close & Personal]" in 1996. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.)
(Steve Hochman has been covering the music world since 1985. He can be heard regularly discussing new music releases on KPCC-FM's "Take Two" and the KQED-FM-produced show "The California Report," and he is also a regular contributor to the former station's arts blog "Without A Net." For 25 years he was a mainstay of the pop music team at the Los Angeles Times and his work has appeared in many other publications.)