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Friday, February 10, 2023

We say goodbye to Burt Bacharach -

Burt Bacharach, the songwriter and performer extraordinaire was a writer beyond simple composition.  He turned easy listening into high art.  All in all he scored 73 Top 40 hits in the US and 52 in the UK.

Musicians, Singers, artists, admirers and friends all paid tribute to the late performer who died in London at 94. 

“Burt’s transition is like losing a family member. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”  Dionne Warwick said in a statement. 

Brian Wilson wrote on Twitter: “I’m so sad to hear about Burt Bacharach. Burt was a hero of mine and very influential on my work. He was a giant in the music business. His songs will live forever.”

In his tribute, the Kinks’ Dave Davies called Bacharach as “a great inspiration” and “one of the most influential songwriters of our time.” 

Gilbert O’Sullivan tweeted about him.  "He was a “huge influence” on his songwriting career and created “timeless melodies never to be forgotten.”

Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928 and raised in New York.  He'd sneak into jazz clubs underage to hear performers like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, immersing himself in the work of composers like Stravinsky and Ravel. 

He was classically trained at schools in Montreal, New York and California.  after a stint in in the US army he became a piano accompanist to musicians, such as Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers and his first wife, Paula Stewart. He was also arranger and conductor for Marlene Dietrich when she toured Europe in the late 50s and early 60s.

Hi songwriting breakthrough came in 1957, after meeting and working casually with lyricist Hal David at the famous New York pop powerhouse, the Brill Building. They scored back to back UK No 1s with two of their earliest songs, The Story of My Life by Marty Robbins (Michael Holliday in the UK hit version) and Magic Moments by Perry Como.

Topped by David’s variously whimsical, wounded and earnestly romantic lyrics, Bacharach created expert arrangements featuring close vocal harmonising, string sections, jazz piano and distinctive details, such as twinkling percussion and whistled melodies. 

With David he created a string of all-time classics: I Say a Little Prayer, sung by Aretha Franklin, What’s New Pussycat? by Tom Jones, The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield, Make It Easy on Yourself by the Walker Brothers, and many others.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, performed by BJ Thomas and featured in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, went on to win a Grammy and an Oscar in 1969, while Bacharach’s music for the film won the Oscar for best original score.

Dionne Warwick became one of Bacharach’s most enduring and fruitful collaborators. Their hits together include Walk on By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, Anyone Who Had a Heart, A House is Not a Home (later a hit for Luther Vandross) and her own original version of I Say a Little Prayer. Warwick later successfully sued Bacharach after he and David stopped working together, stranding her without material. It was a “very costly and unfortunate” dispute, Bacharach told the Guardian in 2019: “I stupidly handled it wrong.” He and Warwick reconciled for the 1985 Aids charity single That’s What Friends Are For.

After he and Stewart got divorced in 1958, he married three more times, first to Angie Dickinson in 1965, then to Carole Bayer Sager in 1982, and last to Jane Hansen in 1993. 

Bacharach and Hansen, who remained married until his death, had two children, Oliver and Raleigh. Nikki Bacharach, his daughter with Dickinson, killed herself in 2007, aged 40, after a history of mental health issues.

His hit rate tailed off after the mid-80s, but he continued to pursue eye-catching collaborations, with, among others, Ronald Isley, Dr Dre and Sheryl Crow. He made a pair of albums with Elvis Costello, plus a version of I’ll Never Fall in Love Again with him for the 1997 movie, Austin Powers.

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