Burt Freeman Bacharach (born May 12, 1928) is an American composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, and singer, a six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner, who is known for his popular hit songs and compositions from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many with lyrics written by Hal David. Bacharach was born on May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Mark Bertram “Bert” Bacharach, a well-known syndicated newspaper columnist, and his wife Irma M. (née Freeman). Burt grew up in the Forest Hills section of New York City, NY, graduating from Forest Hills High School in 1946. His family was Jewish. Bacharach showed a keen interest in jazz as a teenager, disliking his classical piano lessons, and often using fake ID to gain admission into 52nd Street nightclubs such as Spotlite, and listened avidly to bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, who were a major influence on him.
Bacharach studied music (Bachelor of Music, 1948) at Montreal’s McGill University, under Helmut Blume, at the Mannes School of Music, and at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, California, where his composition teachers included Darius Milhaud, Henry Cowell, and Bohuslav Martinů. During this period he studied a range of music, including jazz harmony, which has since been important to songs which are generally considered pop music. Before he went into the service during the Korean War, he wrote a ‘Sonatina for Violin, Oboe and Piano.’ Following a tour of duty in the United States Army, Bacharach worked as a pianist, both as a soloist and as an accompanist for singers such as Vic Damone, Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers and Paula Stewart (who became his wife). For many years, he was the musical arranger for Marlene Dietrich, as well as touring as her musical director.
In 1957, Bacharach and lyricist Hal David met while at the Brill Building in New York City, and began their writing partnership.mm Almost a year later, they received a significant career breakthrough when their song “The Story of My Life” was recorded by Marty Robbins for Columbia Records, becoming a number 1 hit on the U.S. country music chart and reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1957. Soon afterwards, “Magic Moments” was recorded by Perry Como for RCA Records, and became a number 4 U.S. hit in February of that year. Bacharach also worked with other lyricists at first, including Bob Hilliard and Hal David’s brother, Mack David but he and Hal David decided to form an exclusive writing partnership together in 1963. In the early and mid-1960s, Bacharach wrote well over a hundred songs with David. He produced a number of songs for New York soul singer Lou Johnson, including the original recordings of “Always Something There To Remind Me”, “Kentucky Bluebird (Message To Martha)” and “Reach Out For Me”, but the two were mainly associated throughout the decade with Dionne Warwick, a conservatory-trained vocalist. Bacharach and David started writing a large portion of their work with Warwick in mind, leading to one of the most successful teams in popular music history.
Bacharach released his first solo album in 1965 on the Liberty Records label, “Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits.” In 1967, Bacharach signed as an artist with A&M Records, recording a mix of new material and re-arrangements of his best-known songs. He recorded for A&M until 1978. Other singers of Bacharach songs in the ’60s and ’70s included Bobby Vinton (“Blue on Blue”); Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love” from Casino Royale); Cilla Black ( “Anyone Who Had a Heart”), the Delfonics and Cher (“Alfie”); The Beatles (“Baby, It’s You”); The Carpenters (“(They Long to Be Close to You”); Aretha Franklin (“I Say a Little Prayer”); Isaac Hayes (“Walk on By”, from the Hot Buttered Soul album); B. J. Thomas (“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, “Everybody’s Out of Town”); Tom Jones (“What’s New Pussycat?”); Engelbert Humperdinck (“I’m a Better Man”); Sandie Shaw (“Always Something There to Remind Me”); Jack Jones (“Wives and Lovers”); Jackie DeShannon (“What the World Needs Now Is Love”); Gene Pitney (“Only Love Can Break a Heart”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “24 Hours from Tulsa” and “True Love Never Runs Smooth”); Herb Alpert, (“This Guy’s in Love with You”); Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (“The Look of Love”); The Stylistics (“You’ll Never Get To Heaven If you Break My Heart”);the Walker Brothers (“Make It Easy on Yourself”); and the Fifth Dimension (“One Less Bell to Answer”).
Bacharach composed and arranged the soundtrack of the 1967 film Casino Royale, which included “The Look of Love”, performed by Dusty Springfield, and the title song, an instrumental Top 40 single for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Bacharach and David also collaborated with Broadway producer David Merrick on the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, which yielded two hits, the title tune and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, for Dionne Warwick. The year 1969 marked, perhaps, the most successful Bacharach-David collaboration, the Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, written for and prominently featured in the acclaimed film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The two were awarded a Grammy for Best Cast album of the year for “Promises, Promises” and the score was also nominated for a Tony award. There were other Oscar nominations for Best Song for “The Look Of Love”, “What’s New Pussycat” and “Alfie.” Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bacharach continued to write and produce for artists, compose for stage, TV, and film, and release his own albums. He enjoyed a great deal of visibility in the public spotlight, appearing frequently on TV (hosting several variety specials under his own name) and performing live in concert.
In 1973, Bacharach and David were commissioned to score the Ross Hunter-produced revival of the 1937 film, Lost Horizon for Columbia Pictures. The film was a critical and commercial disaster resulting in a separation between the composer and the lyricist. Bacharach tried several solo projects (including the 1977 album Futures). He and David reunited briefly in 1975 to write and produce Stephanie Mills’s second album For the First Time released on Motown Records. By the early 1980s, a new partnership with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager proved rewarding, both commercially and personally. The two collaborated on several major hits during the decade, including “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” (Christopher Cross), co-written with Cross and Peter Allen; “Heartlight” (Neil Diamond); “Making Love” (Roberta Flack); “On My Own” (Patti LaBelle with Michael McDonald), and perhaps most memorably, “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1985, actually the second single which reunited Bacharach and singer Warwick. The profits for the latter song were given to AIDS research. Bacharach’s 1980s tunes showed a new sound.
Other artists continued to revive Bacharach’s earlier hits in the 1980s and 1990s. Examples included Luther Vandross’ recording of “A House is Not a Home”; Naked Eyes’ 1983 pop hit version of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me”, and Ronnie Milsap’s 1982 country version of “Any Day Now”. Bacharach continued a concert career, appearing at auditoriums throughout the world, often with large orchestras. He occasionally joined Warwick for sold-out concerts in New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. In 1990, Deacon Blue charted number 2 in the UK singles chart with an EP entitled “Four Bacharach & David Songs”, with the first track, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” receiving extensive media coverage. In 1996, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner recorded an album of nine Bacharach standards that featured Tyner’s trio with an orchestra arranged and conducted by John Clayton. In 1998, Bacharach co-wrote and recorded a Grammy-winning album with Elvis Costello, Painted from Memory, on which the compositions began to take on the sound of his earlier work.
Bacharach collaborated with Cathy Dennis in 2002 to write an original song for the Pop Idol winner Will Young. This was “What’s in Goodbye”, and it appears on Young’s debut album From Now On. During July 2002, Young was a guest vocalist at two of Bacharach’s concerts, one at the Hammersmith Apollo and the other at Liverpool Pops. In 2003, he teamed with legendary singer and songwriter Ronald Isley to release the album Here I Am, which revisited a number of his 1960s compositions in Isley’s signature R&B style. Bacharach’s 2005 solo album At This Time was a departure from past works in that Bacharach penned his own lyrics, some of which dealt with political themes. Guest stars on the album included Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre. In 2006, he recorded a jazz album with Trijntje Oosterhuis and the Metropole Orchestra called The Look of Love (Burt Bacharach Songbook) which was released in November that year.
On October 24, 2008, Bacharach opened the BBC Electric Proms at The Roundhouse in London, performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra accompanied by guest vocalists Adele, Beth Rowley and Jamie Cullum. The concert was a retrospective look back at his six-decade career, including classics such as “Walk On By”, “The Look of Love”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “What the World Needs Now Is Love”, “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” and “Make It Easy on Yourself”, featuring Jamie Cullum. In early 2009, Bacharach worked with Italian soul singer Karima Ammar and produced her debut single Come In Ogni Ora. A #4 hit, the song has been heard during the 59th Sanremo Music Festival and also features him playing piano. Bacharach and David were awarded the 2011 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song bestowed by the Library of Congress, the first time that a songwriting team has been given the honor. David died the following year on September 1 at age 91. On June 27, 2015, Bacharach performed at the Glastonbury Festival UK. On July 15, Bacharach appeared on stage at the Menier Chocolate Factory to launch ‘What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined’, a 90-minute live arrangement of his greatest hits.
My collection contains the following works by Burt Bacharach:
Alfie (1966): Theme (What’s It All About, Alfie?).
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.