Bill of Writes
"How Do I Live" is the rare kind of song that can earn Grammy nominations for two separate performers (LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood) in one year. No wonder the song's composer
Diane Warren is up for an award in the Song of the Year category. Warren, 41, a one-woman hit factory who has penned the words and music to more than 75 Top-10 singles, scored her first major hit in 1985, writing “Rhythm of the Night” for DeBarge. Since then, she has penned songs for such diverse artists as Toni Braxton (“Un-break My Heart”), Cher (“If I Could Turn Back Time”) and Joe Cocker (“When the Night Comes”), along with Meat Loaf, Kiss and Ziggy Marley.
Though she already won a Grammy last year for Celine Dion’s rendition of “Because You Loved Me,” Warren says she doesn’t care much about getting credit. All she asks is that the artists who record her compositions follow this cardinal rule: Don’t mess with my songs. When a performer chooses one of her songs, Warren stresses that she is open to what she calls “interpretation and legitimate changes.” But if a singer wants to make major alterations, Warren gives the song to someone else. “It’s like if you buy a nice suit and then say, ‘Can you put the legs where the arms are?'” she explains. “If you want to do that, then get another suit.”
Warren’s success has earned her the clout to prevent others from tampering with her songs. When an artist (whom she is too diplomatic to name) recently wanted to change a line, Warren listened to his rendition, then decided hers was better. To make sure her version ended up on the album, she phoned the head of the record company. “My name’s on that song,” Warren says. “If it sucks, it makes me look bad.”
Another artist tried to add all new lyrics to her tune “When I’m Back on My Feet Again,” which she had written for Michael Bolton. “They came to me and said, ‘Well, you can have half of the writing royalties,'” Warren says. “But it would look like I ripped myself off and wrote a bad song, so I didn’t let them put it out.”
In February, Warren will have her name on new songs by En Vogue, All-4-One, Brandy and Faith Evans. But even if the hits keep on coming, Warren’s likely to stay behind the scenes. “People want me to do a record, but it’s not what I want,” says Warren. “I never aspired to be on stage. I’d rather just sit in my room and write songs.”