Composer Burt Bacharach has died at the age of 94.
One of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, he wrote more than 500 songs performed by more than 1,200 different artists during his seven-year career.
Despite numerous collaborations, he gained greatest recognition in the 1960s and 70s for songs written with lyricist Hal David and sung by singer Dionne Warwick, All three have become their own music stars.
His music—often described as “easy listening” or “elevator music” because of its catchy melodies—was inspired by an early love of jazz.
But fans of his work will argue that, while memorable and addictive, the mixed rhymes, complex melodies, unusual chord progressions and asymmetrical rhythms mean that his compositions are far from “simple”. “.
An accomplished pianist and composer, Bacharach Arranged, directed and produced most of his own songs.
six times grammy awards champion and three times academic award Winner, whose compositional skills have brought him comparisons with such greats of American music as George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Richard Rogers.
Early collabs included Perry Como and Jerry Butler, and later stars such as Frank Sinatra, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and the Carpenters.
Some of his biggest hits include Oscar-winning Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, (They Long) Close To You, Anyone With Heart, There’s Always Something To Remind Me And What The World Needs Right Now Is Love.
Hollywood also played a role in his career, with many of his songs later serving as soundtracks to major films.
Look of Love, used in the spy parody of the 1967 James Bond film Casino Royale, became a gold record for Dusty Springfield and Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Many years later, the spoof movie would lead to Bacharach cameos in all three Austin Thrones films, with Mike Myers calling him the movie’s “lucky charm.”
What is a new cat? – appeared in the 1965 Woody Allen film of the same name – to the Welsh singer tom jones His second US Top 40 hit, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. It went on to be sung by stars including Barbra Streisand, Four Seasons and The Wailers.
His mention in Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life justifies his rightful place in pop culture, as well as his reputation as a lady’s man.
“I don’t want to disappoint my mother”
Burt Freeman Bacharach was born May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of a newspaper columnist father and an amateur painter and pianist mother.
When he was three, the family moved to New York. Bacharach said in his 2013 autobiography, “Hearts: My Life and Music,” that he, a Jewish family living in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, kept his faith to himself and “didn’t want anyone to know.”
Thanks to his mother’s love of music, Bacharach started learning the piano at an early age. He hated them so much, but later told fans at the show that he insisted because “I didn’t want to let my mom down”.
He went on to study music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, before completing training at the Mannes School of Music in New York, and the Western Conservatory of Music in Montecito, California.
He disliked the classical music he played in class and later sneaked into jazz clubs as a teenager, a style that went on to influence his songwriting later in his career.
Conscripted for two years during the Korean War in 1950 and stationed in Germany, he got his first taste of musical work as a pianist in an officers’ club and as an arranger for dance bands.
He hit it off with big-band singer and actor Vic Damon during his military service, and continued to work with him after his military service as a pianist and conductor.
Touring with Hollywood Royalty
From there, he began collaborating with other artists, including actress Marlene Dietrich, who called her collaboration with him “seventh heaven,” according to her 1989 biography Marlene.
Reflecting on his time with her in his autobiography, Bacharach wrote: “We went to Russia, Israel, the Middle East. Going with Marlene was like going with a conquering army.”
As the Hollywood star’s musical director, arranging and directing her nightclub shows, he gained greater public visibility, but their working relationship ended in the early 1960s, when Bacharach decided to devote himself to songwriting full-time.
Reflecting on the start of his career, Bacharach said he initially thought songwriting was “amazingly easy, I thought I could write five or six a day”.
However, after a year or so of work and “about a thousand” rejection letters, he concluded: “It’s hard to be simple.”
Without a doubt, his most enduring and productive professional relationship was with lyricist Hal David, whom he met in 1957. The duo co-wrote over 100 songs in the early and mid ’60s alone.
With Hal David and Dionne Warwick
But their partnership didn’t really begin until 1961, when they discovered Dionne Warwick as session singer.
During their songwriting period for Warwick, they wrote 39 of her hits, including Don’t Make Me Over, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, Walk On By and Do You Know The Way To San Jose.
In 1969, Bacharach and David ventured into the theater with the hit musical Promises, Promises, based on the 1960 film The Apartment. Their first and only Broadway show won them a Grammy.
Less ominously, their score for the 1973 film Lost Horizon was a huge flop, leading to a lawsuit between the two and a breakup of their careers.
In turn, their split led to Warwick suing them for failing to fulfill their contract with her on her music. It was eventually settled out of court for $5m (£4.1m) in 1979.
In 1975, Bacharach briefly collaborated with David again on a Motown album.
Warwick and Bacharach also reunited in 1985 when she sang his hit song That’s What Friends Are For.
Co-written with his then-wife Carole Bayer Sager, the song starred Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight and won a Grammy for Song of the Year.
Warwick described her relationship with Bacharach at the time as: “Not just friends. We’re family.”
In 2000, the trio collaborated again to write songs for the film She Wasn’t Great, based on novelist Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.
In the 1980s, Bacharach’s music inspired many songs of the post-punk era, and in the 1990s, thanks to popular music including Divine Comedy and The Mike Flower.
Named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine in 2000, his remixes and samples topped the charts several times in the 1910s.
An entire episode was also dedicated to his 2006 hit as a guest vocal coach on American Idol.
More modern collaborations include Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Noel Gallagher and hip-hop producer Dr Dre.
In June 2015, Bacharach took to the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival, 15 years after he was forced to withdraw from the event due to a shoulder injury.
Bacharach received the Johnny Mercer Award in 1996, the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s highest honor.
Other honors include the UCLA George and Ira Gershwin Award for Musical Achievement, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, in which he was declared the music industry’s greatest living composer in 2006.
Throughout his career as performer and composer, Bacharach gave concerts all over the world, often accompanied by large orchestras.
He’s best known for his political songs, but he made an exception in 2018 with “Live To See Another Day,” dedicated to survivors of gun violence and donating proceeds to a charity run by the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 shooting.
In late 2022, a dance team in New York celebrates Bacharach’s music with a dance night called “The Expression of Love,” named after one of his biggest hits.
Even his horse racing pastime – he owned and bred thoroughbreds for over 30 years – was influenced by his love of music, naming one of his championship horses Heartlight No. One after his collaboration with Neil Diamond, inspired by the movie ET
Bacharach was married four times, first to television actress Paula Stewart from 1953 to 1958 and then to actress Angie Dickinson from 1965 to 1980.
Bacharach and Dickinson had a daughter, Nikki, who took her own life in 2007, at age 40, after battling Asperger’s syndrome as a child.
His third marriage to lyricist Carole Bayer Sager lasted from 1982 to 1991, and they adopted a son, Christopher.
His fourth and final marriage was to former ski instructor Jane Hansen, 32 years his junior, with whom he has a son and a daughter, Oliver and Raleigh.
Bacharach is survived by ex-wives Dickinson and Bayer Sager, his wife Jane and children Christopher, Oliver and Raleigh.