Diane Warren takes us behind her biggest hits with Celine Dion, Cher, and more
The Write Stuff is an occasional series about songwriters
Diane Warren's love of music has come full circle. The Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning songwriter remembers the moment she fell in love with it, as a little girl watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. "When the Beatles burst on the scene, that is what did it," Warren tells EW. Cut to 2020, and she releases "Here's to the Nights" featuring Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. "I'm pinching myself," she says. "It doesn't get better than that."
Once Warren's love of music was ignited, there was no turning back. By the age of 10 she'd start writing songs, and she hasn't stopped since. "Really there was no middle ground because I'm utterly useless at literally everything else. There's not anything else I could do," she says. "I've put all my time and energy ever since I was a kid into this, so this is what I was going to do, and no one was going to stop me. No one and nothing."
After breaking onto the scene in 1985 with "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge, Warren began creating quite the impressive resume with hits like Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and Cher's "I Could Turn Back Time," among many others. She's been nominated for 12 Academy Awards and inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame. And now, she's about to release her debut album, Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions Vol. 1, featuring artists like Celine Dion, John Legend, Maren Morris, and others singing her songs.
"I kept seeing these feature records. I kept seeing like what DJ Khaled, Calvin Harris, all these kind of producer-y DJ-type of people were doing these records, which is basically curating songs or records. And I go, 'Why can't I do that, as a songwriter?'"
Below, Warren takes EW through a handful of her biggest hits, including a song from her upcoming album, out August 27.
"Because You Loved Me" – Celine Dion
I remember it was a Friday and Jon Avnet, the director of Up Close and Personal, showed me the movie and told me what he was looking for. I came up with that chorus on Saturday, "You were my strength when I was weak." In the movie, Robert Redford had died and he had believed in [Michelle Pfeiffer's character] and really given her her break. So it was a song about her, to him. But then I thought of my dad because my dad always believed in me. And so I tapped into that when I was writing that song. And then Celine did it and it became her biggest hit at that time. I got nominated [for an Oscar] for that song and I remember that was one of the ones I thought I was going to win. Usually I just go and don't expect anything. But that year I really did think I was going to win. I took Clive Davis as my date and then I remember being really bummed out after. And we went to Jerry's Deli and I ate two orders of French fries.
"Un-Break My Heart" – Toni Braxton
That started with the title. I remember just sitting at the piano and starting that chorus. I went and played it for Clive Davis. He was at the Beverly Hills Hotel and I played it on a piano and he was like, "Oh, I have to have that song for Toni Braxton. You have to demo that right now." She didn't really want to do that song. She didn't really like it. But then she did and she won the Grammy. She probably likes it now. It turned into one she has to sing the rest of her life, so I hope she does. She probably hates it more than ever now, she's had to sing for the last 20 years, sorry. But it's beautiful. Her performance was amazing on it and it's just a classic.
"How Do I Live" – LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood
I wrote that for Con Air and it was done by two artists at same time, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. So I met with Jerry Bruckheimer and he showed me the scene in the movie, and I went and wrote "How Do I Live." It wasn't really chosen for the movie yet, but I did run into LeAnn Rimes and told her it was. And we went in and did a demo, and then she went back to Texas and recorded the song and they spent a lot of money on it. I guess Jerry wanted some changes and her dad didn't want to change anything. I was trying to explain, "All you have to do is just make it different for the movie." And they wouldn't do it. So Jerry goes, "Is it okay if Trisha Yearwood does it for the movie?" And I go, "Yeah, if I don't have to pull it from LeAnn."
And then so Trisha did it for the movie, then they wanted me to pull it from LeAnn, and I couldn't do that. And everybody was mad at me until it came out and it became a hit for both artists. But that's why there's two versions. Everybody was mad at me and then everybody loved me. [Laughs]
"If I Could Turn Back Time" – Cher
She hated it. I literally had to get on my knees and hold her leg down in the lounge of a recording studio. I went to the studio and she was actually doing another song of mine, and I go, "Throw that other song out. Throw out any other song you were thinking of doing, because the only one that matters is this one." She goes, "I hate it. I hate this song. I'm not doing it." I'm like, "You have to try it." She goes, "I'm not going to try it. I hate it." So I literally got on my knees, held her leg down, and I go, "I'm not going to let go of your leg until you say you're going to try it." And I go, "Look, I'll pay for it. I'll pay for it. If you don't like it, you have nothing to lose." She goes, "Okay." And I paid for it and got my money back because as soon as she started singing it, she's like, "You f---ing b---h, you were right."
"Where Is Your Heart" – John Legend
When he first did it, he was supposed to put it on his album. Then he didn't, and I gave it to another artist. And then he said, "No, I want it back." And then he didn't use the song again so I gave it to another major artist, and then he did the same thing. And I thought, "You know what, I'm going to get this song heard. The song is going to be on my record." This album all started with John Legend and "Where Is Your Heart."