Burt Bacharach, who elevated casual listening to a fine art form, passed away at 94. As reported by the Washington Post, Bacharach’s agent has verified that the songwriter died at his Los Angeles residence from unspecified circumstances. He had 73 Top 40 singles in the United States and 52 in the United Kingdom.
As soon as word of the performer’s death spread, musicians, fans, and friends began paying respect to him. Burt’s passing “is like losing a family,” Dionne Warwick stated. Please accept my deepest sympathies to his loved ones and know that he is at peace now.
As Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys tweeted, “I’m incredibly heartbroken to hear about Burt Bacharach. I looked up to Burt, and he had a significant impact on my career. He towered over everyone else throughout the music industry, and his music will endure for all time.
Dave Davies of the Kinks paid respect by calling Bacharach “one of the most important composers of our time” and a “wonderful inspiration.” On Twitter, Gilbert O’Sullivan credited Bacharach as having a “major impact” on his songwriting career, noting that the composer’s work included “timeless melodies never to be forgotten.”
Bacharach took birth in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928 and was brought up in New York, where he spent his formative years sneaking into jazz clubs to hear artists like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie and studying the music of composers like Stravinsky and Ravel.
He attended music institutions in Montreal, New York, and California before serving in the United States Army and then working as a piano player for artists including Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, and his first wife, Paula Stewart. During Marlene Dietrich’s European tours in the 1950s and 1960s, he served as the singer’s arranger and conductor.
When Bacharach met lyricist Hal David in 1957 in New York’s Brill Building, a mecca for the pop music industry, they hit it big. They had back-to-back UK No. 1s with two initial singles: Marty Robbins The Story of My Life (performed by Michael Holliday in the UK hit version) and Perry Como’s Magic Moments.
David’s lyrical content ranged from playful to heartbreaking to passionately amorous; Bacharach topped these songs with superb arrangements that included tight vocal harmonies, string groups, jazz piano, and unique elements like twinkle percussion and whistled melodies. Bacharach was able to use specific time signatures thanks to his classical expertise.
His collaborations with David resulted in a succession of timeless hits, including Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” and Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?” as well as Dusty Springfield’s and even “The Look of Love,” the Walker Brothers’ as well as “Make It Easy on Yourself,” and many more.
In 1969, Bacharach’s music for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid won the Oscar for best original score, while the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” sung by BJ Thomas, received a Grammy and an Academy Award.
One of Bacharach’s longest and most productive partnerships was with Dionne Warwick. They had a string of successes together, including her original version of “I, Say a Little Prayer” and covers of “Walk on By” and “Do You Know the Way to The San Jose?”
Later, after Bacharach and David had ceased working together, leaving Warwick without material, she successfully sued him. Bacharach told the Guardian in 2019 that he “stupidly handled it poorly,” leading to a “costly and sad conflict.” In 1985, he and Warwick patched things up for the benefit song That was What Friends Are For.
After he and Stewart separated in 1958, Bacharach got married thrice more times to Angie Dickinson in 1965, as well as Carole Bayer Sager in 1982, and even Jane Hansen in 1993.
Oliver and Raleigh were born to him and his wife Hansen, to whom he stayed married until his death. His 40-year-old daughter with Dickinson, Nikki Bacharach, committed suicide due to a history of mental illness.
Bayer Sager became a popular musical partner in the 80s, penning lyrics for new Bacharach songs sung by Neil Diamond, and Roberta Flack, and even Christopher Cross, whose melody for the 1981 movie Arthur earned Bacharach his second Oscar for best original song.
His string of hits ended towards the middle of the 1980s, but he kept working with exciting people like Ronald Isley, Dr. Dre, and Sheryl Crow. He collaborated with Elvis Costello on two studio albums and a cover of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” for the Austin Powers film.