The Woman Behind the Song: Diane Warren NPR's Scott Simon visits with prolific songwriter Diane Warren in her studio on Sunset Boulevard. Warren has penned hundreds of hits for the likes of Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Cher, Milli Vanilli, Aerosmith, and most recently, the song "Do You Feel Me," from the American Gangster soundtrack.
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The Woman Behind the Song: Diane Warren

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The Woman Behind the Song: Diane Warren

The Woman Behind the Song: Diane Warren

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To Sunset Boulevard now on the studios of Diane Warren. She's been called the high priestess of heartbreak and the human jukebox - accolades for someone who may be the most prolific, successful contemporary songwriter in Hollywood. She's written hits for artists who range from Roy Orbison to Ziggy Marley, 'N Sync to Meatloaf, Eric Clapton and Mary J. Blige to Michael Bolton, Celine Dion and, oh, yeah, Milli Vanilli.


MILLI VANILLI: (Singing) Blame it on the rain that was falling, falling. Blame it on the stars that did shine at night.


SIMON: (Singing) ...this heart. You do be mine.


U: (Singing) Give me you.

SIMON: (Singing) Give me you, give me all of you.

U: (Singing) Give me night.

SIMON: (Singing) All my nights spent just holding you.


SIMON: (Singing) We got to give a little love, have a little hope, make this world a little better. Try...


SIMON: (Singing) Cry over me. Cry over me. Die over me. Die over me even for a moment.


SIMON: (Singing) I'm everything I am because you loved me. Oh.

SIMON: Realsongs, Diane Warren's publishing company, is not surprisingly the most successful female-owned and operated company in the music business. Her most recent hit is the theme for "American Gangster," the new film "American Gangster" - "Do You Feel Me" sung by Anthony Hamilton. So we're at the Realsongs studios with Diane Warren.

Thanks so much for inviting us here.

SIMON: Oh, thanks for coming.

SIMON: How do you write for so many different voices?

SIMON: I don't know, maybe I'm schizophrenic.


SIMON: I guess that's one way of doing it, isn't it?

SIMON: Yeah, I hear voices in my head, and I hear voices when I'm writing songs.

SIMON: Yeah.

SIMON: You know, I couldn't, I mean, lots of times I'm writing a song and I kind of - I mean, I'm not maybe tailoring it to one person, but I'm kind of hearing the kind of voice it could be, you know what I mean? I'm not really...

SIMON: What comes first, the idea for the song or the invitation from someone well-known for you to write a song for them?

SIMON: Isn't there a famous Sammy Cahn line about that? They asked him that question; he said the phone call, you know? But me, it's - I always just - I'm always writing a song; I'm not waiting for anybody.

SIMON: So many of your songs - almost all of your hits are about love.

SIMON: Love songs work.

SIMON: What do you have to know about love to write love songs?

SIMON: You have to know about heartbreak; I know about heartbreak. I mean, I haven't necessarily been in love, in love, in love, like most people have.

SIMON: You've never been in love?

SIMON: Not - I don't know if I've ever been in love the way my songs are, you know what I mean? Because I don't know if I want to stay awake just to hear someone breathing, so not that kind of love.

SIMON: Who's particularly fun to work and to write for?

SIMON: God, I've written for so many great singers so it's hard to pick one, you know?

SIMON: Well, pick three.

SIMON: Pick three. As far as, like, great vocalist, you know, or just - that were just fun to work with?

SIMON: Where your partnership results in a song you really like?

SIMON: Like Steven Tyler, Aerosmith; that was a really fun experience. It was great. You know, Whitney Houston, you know, I'm excited about Anthony Hamilton because he was a new type of artist for me, you know, on "American Gangster."

SIMON: This most recent song from "American Gangster."

SIMON: Yeah, it was a cool kind of movie for me; it wasn't the big love ballad. It was kind of a gritty kind of '70s inspired soul song.

SIMON: Can we hear a little?

SIMON: Sure.


SIMON: (Singing) Wish I could see through, see deep into you, and know what you're thinking now. And if I'm what you're needing, I need some kind of sign. Let me know because I can't read your mind. Are you in or am I in this on my own? I need some clue from you. Let me know, babe. Do you feel me; do you read me? Tell me, am I getting through to you? I wanna know. Are you with me; are you listening? Baby, is my message getting through? Do you feel me, baby, oh, babe, because I can feel you.

SIMON: That's a good song.

SIMON: I think so, too.

SIMON: We're lucky enough to be sitting here in your studios and offices, and we've met your cat - new kitten.

SIMON: Yeah, Mouse.

SIMON: Mouse.

SIMON: Mouse isn't a kitten - Mouse is a year old.

SIMON: Okay.

SIMON: A very interesting cat that thinks she's a dog with the name Mouse.

SIMON: I hope you don't mind me asking, but you've got a wall here where there's just stuff pinned up to amuse the staff.

SIMON: Yeah, there's... I'm glad you're not filming it.


SIMON: Well, I, you know, some of it we just - is to...

SIMON: Yeah.

SIMON: ...amuse the staff. It's personal.

SIMON: Yeah.

SIMON: But there's an old newspaper clip here...

SIMON: With the runaway?

SIMON: Yeah.

SIMON: Yeah.

SIMON: Fourteen-year-old girl who ran away from home.

SIMON: I see it right there, yeah, that's a real news clip. Yes.

SIMON: That 14-year-old girl is...

SIMON: Is me.

SIMON: What happened?

SIMON: What happened? Oh, well, I ran away from home for a couple of weeks and came back because I missed my cat, to be honest with you, you know? I just, you know, I was a kid that got in some trouble and music really saved me, you know, so here I am. Who would have thought?

SIMON: How did this...

SIMON: That that person on that - that girl on that news clipping - because it could have gone the other way, you know, it could have gone who knows, you know? So if it wasn't for music, I don't think I'd be in such good shape.

SIMON: What if it turns out that at the end of all this, the great love affair of your life was with love songs?

SIMON: With music, yeah, that's quite possible, and there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I love music. That - even if I fell in love with somebody that, you know, that's going to be my...

SIMON: Oh, still, yeah.

SIMON: It's not going to be as important as music. Music is my first love; it always will be.

SIMON: It was so nice talking to you.

SIMON: Well, great talking to you as well.

SIMON: Diane Warren speaking from her studios Realsongs on Sunset Boulevard.

You can find thousands of stories, by the way, and interviews about music, hundreds of hours of original music performances at NPR's new music Web site. You can find it at

SIMON: Thank you. Bye. I'm Diane. Was I supposed to say that?

SIMON: You can say anything.

SIMON: Oh, god, I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

SIMON: It's your studio, say anything you want.

SIMON: Oh. Well, it was a lot of fun, Scott. Thanks for coming.


SIMON: (Singing) ...and the pain will fade. I'll get back on my feet. It's not the end of me.

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