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Burt Bacharach

With a hit-single track record spanning four decades, Burt Bacharach became one of the most important composers of popular music in the 20th century, almost equal to such classic tunesmiths as George Gershwin or Irving Berlin. His sophisticated yet breezy productions borrowed from cool jazz, soul, Brazilian bossa nova, and traditional pop to virtually define and undoubtedly transcend the staid forms of Brill Building adult pop during the 1960s.

Born May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, he studied cello, drums, and piano as a child, and was later transplanted to New York City by his father, a syndicated columnist. The time spent in New York gave him a chance to sneak into clubs to watch his bebop heroes Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker; he also played in several jazz bands during the 1940s. Bacharach studied music theory and composition at the Mannes School in New York, at Berkshire Music Center, at the New School for Social Research (with Darius Milhaud), at Montreal's McGill University, and at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. A period in the Army interrupted his concentration of music study, but even while serving in Germany, Bacharach arranged and played piano for a dance band. He also played in nightclubs and backed Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart. Bacharach was discharged in 1952, and he married Stewart on December 22nd of the following year.

On returning to the U.S., he began writing songs for Lawrence, Patti Page, the Ames Brothers, and others, but his first hit came from Marty Robbins in late 1957 when Robbins took "The Story of My Life" to the American Top 20 and the number one spot in England. The single was also notable for its co-composer, Hal David, who became Bacharach's songwriting partner and collaborated on most of his big hits. The Bacharach/David team followed up in January 1958 with Perry Como's "Magic Moments," another U.K. chart-topper and a Top Five entry in America. Bacharach's marriage dissolved in 1958, and he left for Europe to tour with Marlene Dietrich. He returned in 1961, and wrote several songs for the Drifters with Bob Hilliard (including "Mexican Divorce" and "Please Stay") before reuniting with Hal David. At an arranging session, he found the singer who became the ultimate vehicle for his songs: Dionne Warwick who was working as a member of the Drifters' backup vocal group, the Gospelaires.

By late 1962, Bacharach and David began focusing most of their composing energy on Warwick, who was the recipient of 15 Top 40 singles from 1962 to 1968 (including the Top Tens "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Walk on By," "Message to Michael," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Valley of the Dolls," and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"). The duo also remained dominant in England, where Frankie Vaughan, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, the Walker Brothers, and Herb Alpert all hit number one with Bacharach/David compositions. As if their schedule wasn't busy enough throughout the '60s, the songwriters contributed film scores for What's New Pussycat?, Alfie, and Casino Royale. The film featuring their most celebrated score, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Theme Song for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (plus two non-musical Academy Awards). Bacharach and David began working on the musical Promises, Promises in the late '60s; it won a Tony and a Grammy Award (for cast album) during a popular three-year Broadway run. Bacharach hit the charts himself in 1969, with the show's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" reaching the Top 100. Surprisingly, this was not his only foray into recording; Bacharach had reached number four in the U.K. charts in May 1965 with "Trains and Boats and Planes," and he released several popular solo albums during the late '60s.

The beginning of the '70s looked bright for Burt Bacharach, as the Carpenters took "(They Long to Be) Close to You" to number one in the U.S. in July 1970. The forecast was premature, though, as three of his closest partners -- Hal David, Dionne Warwick, and his second wife Angie Dickinson -- left him. He gathered several accolades for an eponymous 1971 album featuring renditions of his previous hit compositions, but later albums were disappointing and Bacharach's next hit was over a decade in coming. Finally in 1981, he collaborated with Christopher Cross, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen on the Oscar-winning "Arthur's Theme." Bacharach married Bayer Sager just one year later, and together they wrote Roberta Flack's Top 20 hit "Making Love," as well as "Heartlight" which Neil Diamond took to number five.

Once Bacharach resumed composing he began to hit, and 1986 was one of his finest years, with two American number ones: "That's What Friends Are For" (by an all-star group including Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder) and a duet by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald titled "On My Own." He divorced Sager in 1991, but worked with Dionne Warwick again two years later on "Sunny Weather Love," from her Friends Can Be Lovers album. Also in 1993, Bacharach contributed songs to James Ingram, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tevin Campbell. Around the same time, many alternative bands began name-checking the hitmaker as an influence, and Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher joined him on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as well as including a picture of him on the cover of Oasis' Definitely Maybe. BBC-TV focused on Bacharach in a January 1996 documentary, and a three-disc retrospective of his compositions was released by Rhino in 1998. That same year he collaborated with Elvis Costello on the acclaimed Painted From Memory, and was celebrated at an all-star concert at Radio City Music Hall which later formed the basis for the LP One Amazing Night. The 2005 album At This Time found Bacharach writing lyrics for the first time. Tonio K helped with the lyrics, Elvis Costello, Dr. Dre, Chris Botti, and Rufus Wainwright also contributed to the album. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

The elevator music of my lifetime. I mean that as a complement. These songs had legs. I'm thinking of Aretha Franklin's Say a Little Prayer and Isaac Hayes' Walk On By.
I saw Jackie Deshannon in a little concert near Castle SHANNON Pa. when she 1st came out with the song What the World Needs Now is Love
Cherish is there anything better
when my heart hurts…….Burt s music is there. what memories come to mind. yes yes yes
I'm 55, love my beatles and stones but burt knows a good song when he writes one
Is there anything Burt didn't write?! Jezus.
Go go Burt
his music is timeless and right up there with the best of the best..enough said. thank you burt...
This guy has potential, if he keeps working on it he may turn into a pretty decent songwriter.
I mean the VERSION of the tune. Typographica l error. Remember Paul Newman riding a bicycle in a field accompanied by this tune. A beautiful place in time.
This song was on the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A beautiful scene and a beautiful soundtrack. I saw that film dozens of times and the erosion of this tune is perfect compliment to the gorgeous scenery and actors in the scene. Music is the soundtrack of our lives.
onna2otoko
Burt Bacharach you have always been the pleasant surprise behind all of my favorite music. Your music speaks to my heart. Raindrops keep falling on my head is my souls anthem and my outlook on life. The surprise was finding out that it was your music. I love you today just as much as when I was a little girl in the 1970's. I love you.
A house is not a home!
earlycall
the best team ,together Burt and Dionne did it like nobody else ,the best collaboratio n
What an awesome team they were...Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick!
Love you Burt! I add that this music is forever in my heart!
dalekimmi, could not have said this better!
Love him ... Brings me back to my
Childhood in the 70s when life was
Easier and slow and family times ;0)
r72263750
Fantastic! But then he always was. What tremendous talent and melodic instinct - almost clairvoyant in his anticipation of great lyrics/sound s .
i think your Burt
dalekimmi
Love him ... Brings me back to my
Childhood in the 70s when life was
Easier and slow and family times:)
jcfarber
This kind of great music barely exists today...what a genius!
Ima bring him 'back' (around the time he had that beautiful gray head of hair, marry him, and make him serenade the house.... LOL
Luv Him
ladeehursey
Love it! Need more like this today, all day
BACHARACH N WARWICK, WHAT A TALENT BETWEEN THOSE TWO..GREAT MUSIC INDEED..I JUST LOVE THEM..
Bacharach/Da v i d . . . s o m e of the best Pop of the 20th Century!
Burt takes a back seat to no one. And certainly nobody has been as prolific. I would put him up there in that rarified air with Gershin, Berlin, McCartney/Le n n o n , Paul Simon. And I don't think he gets the props he deserves.
kramer_chris
he captures feelings in his works and they bring me to better places inside. that one he wrote and hal david the lyrics, alfie, is a wondrous piece that keeps me knowing their are gifts still out there, i put that one to memory
cityplannerg u y
saw him in concert in hawaii in the late1990s... incredible show; a true talent whose likes are once in a lifetime.
One less bell to answer+a house is not a home=AMAZING
Wheres he at now??? I Miss him
suzyfromflor i d a
Burt Bacharach = The greatest composer EVER! 'nuff said!
cinmar3
whenever I feel sad I can listen to this type of music and I am fine again
dennishanisc h
Always easy to listen to.
laraiine77
It brings back 1962 when the sea was blue and I was young.
barbara7699
always a major talent....
jme9782
Thank God for this kind of music
I Shred with Sharkie!
rnbabydoll
Burt Bacharach is music!!! My goodness! What a blessing!!!!
diannec6
I saw him perform in Arizona a couple of years ago. It was an incredible concert. Would love to attend another.
markv299
Burt Bacharach - thy name is music!!
I was so lucky to have seen him live at The Meyerhoff Theatre in Baltimore in the early 2000s... complete with a small orchestra, various singers, and of course, Burt himself. His horn and string arrangements always make an impact with me--they are so complimentar y to the melody.
He's still around and he is GREAT!!
God i love this man Burt Bacharach he was and if he stll around love any-thing he composed i especially love when he wrote for dian warwick nice to know he still here love you burt your the best:
Just heard in a NPR interview that he wrote the music for the new Broadway version of Promises Promises. When can I buy the soundtrack??
just got to love him his music talent etc...
Puerile pablum, but I love it!
yeah
We love Burt and Hal's lyrics...We also like to listen to the Carpenters.
joyce_hugo
The collaboratio n between Burt and Dionne was pivotal for me...I really started paying attention and all the hits kept on coming. I love them all! I am listening to "Walk On By", great song!
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