Song of the Day: I Say a Little Prayer by Dionne Warwick (& Aretha Franklin)

prayer

I Say a Little Prayer” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick, originally peaking at number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in December 1967. On the R&B Singles chart it peaked at number eight. Intended by lyricist Hal David to convey a woman’s concern for her man who’s serving in the Vietnam War, “I Say a Little Prayer” was recorded by Dionne Warwick in a 9 April 1966 session.

Lyrics:

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer

…….

The female vocals are a crucial component to this song. They were performed by a group called The Sweet Inspirations, which were comprised at the time of Cissy Houston, Estelle Brown, Myrna Smith and Sylvia Shemwell (Houston is Warwick’s aunt, and Whitney Houston’s mother). Their contribution gave the song a powerful Gospel sound and made the chorus pop.

The Sweet Inspirations were in on this song at the same time as Warwick – they practiced it with her during rehearsals at Burt Bacharach’s house. It was a very relaxed atmosphere where they were able to hone the song before entering the studio.

In a 1997 interview with Switch, Hal David explained that he would take a long, careful look at the work before fitting his words to Bacharach’s melodies. He added that sometimes the placement of the title was not so obvious with Bacharach’s music. For instance, the chorus section in ‘I Say a Little Prayer,’ that’s ordinarily where the title would fall, but it seemed to me that the title should come in the less obvious place in the middle of the verse after ‘The moment I wake up, before I put on my make-up.'” (This interview is available at Rock’s Backpages.)

“I Say a Little Prayer” also returned to the Pop & R&B Top Ten in the fall of 1968 via a recording by Aretha Franklin taken from her 1968 Aretha Now album. Franklin and background vocalists the Sweet Inspirations were singing the song for fun while rehearsing the songs intended for the album when the viability of Franklin actually recording “I Say a Little Prayer” became apparent, significantly re-invented from the format of the Dionne Warwick original via the prominence of Clayton Ivey’s piano work and the choral vocals of the Sweet Inspirations. Similar to the history of Warwick’s double-sided hit, the Aretha Franklin version was intended the B-side of the July 1968 single release “The House that Jack Built” but began to accrue its own airplay that August. Even with “The House That Jack Built” ranking as high as No. 6 (#2 R&B) in September 1968. That October “I Say a Little Prayer” reached number ten and number three on the R&B singles chart. The same month the single was certified Gold by the RIAA. “Prayer” became Franklin’s ninth and last consecutive Hot 100 top 10 hit on the Atlantic label (not counting every flip side), with each of the nine curiously peaking at a different position. Franklin’s “Prayer” has a special significance in her UK career, as with its September 1968 No. 4 peak it became Franklin’s biggest UK hit; subsequently Franklin has surpassed that track’s UK peak only with her No. 1 collaboration with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. In February 1987, UK music weekly New Musical Express published its critics’ top 150 singles of all time, with Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” ranked at No. 1, followed by Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” and Warwick’s “Walk On By”. (Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” did not appear in the magazine’s in-house critics’ top 100 singles poll conducted in November 2002.)

Dionne Warwick

Image result for Dionne Warwick

Born Marie Dionne Warrick
December 12, 1940 (age 75)
East Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Other names Dionne Warwicke
Alma mater University of Hartford Hartt School
Occupation
  • Singer
  • Actress
Years active 1962–present
Musical career
Genres
  • Gospel
  • R&B
  • Soul
  • pop
Instruments Vocals
Labels
  • Scepter
  • Warner Bros.
  • Arista
  • Concord
  • Rhino
Associated acts
  • Burt Bacharach
  • The Spinners
  • The Supremes
  • Isaac Hayes
  • Glen Campbell
  • Sacha Distel
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Whitney Houston
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Jeffrey Osborne
  • June Pointer
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Elton John
  • Nirvana
  • Dieter Bohlen
  • Gladys Knight
  • Patti LaBelle
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Chuck Jackson
  • Barry Manilow
  • Bee Gees
  • Luther Vandross
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Kashif
  • Howard Hewett
  • Johnny Mathis
  • BeBe Winans
  • Billy Ray Cyrus
  • Ne-Yo
  • Rumer
  • Damon Elliott

Aretha Franklin

Image result for Aretha Franklin

Born Aretha Louise Franklin
March 25, 1942 (age 74)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Residence Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation
  • Singer
  • Musician
Years active 1956–present
Home town Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Awards Aretha Franklin awards
Musical career
Genres
  • Gospel
  • R&B
  • jazz
  • soul
  • pop
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • keyboards
Labels
  • J.V.B.
  • Columbia
  • Atlantic
  • Arista
  • RCA
Associated acts
  • Sweet Inspirations
  • Erma Franklin
  • Carolyn Franklin
  • Cissy Houston
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Patti LaBelle
  • Eurythmics
  • The Caravans
  • James Brown
  • George Benson
  • The Soul Stirrers
  • Luther Vandross
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Whitney Houston
  • George Michael
  • Michael McDonald
  • Lauryn Hill
Website arethafranklin.net

Photo by Melania Brescia

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