Burt Bacharach

Burt BacharachFrom: Kansas City, MO, USA

Burt Bacharach is considered to be one of the most important composers of popular music in the 20th Century, so much so, that he is said to be almost as important as the likes of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. Bacharach’s music was a mixture of cool jazz, soul, Brazilian bossa nova, and traditional pop.

Bacharach was born May 12, 1928, and studied cello, drums, and piano as a child. His family moved to New York due to his father, a syndicated columnist. Living in New York gave Burt the chance to sneak into clubs to watch several bebop legends. He also played in a number of jazz bands in the 1940s, and studied music theory and composition at the Mannes School in New York. Bacharach would also study at Berkshire Music Center, at the New School for Social Research, at Montreal’s McGill University, and at the Music Academy in Santa Barbara, California.

There was a brief time that Bacharach served in the U.S. Army, interrupting his focus on music, but he still managed to arrange and play piano for a dance band while he was stationed in Germany. Bacharach also had the chance to play in nightclubs, backing Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart. A year after his discharge, Bacharach married Stewart on December 22, 1953.

When Bacharach returned to the U.S., he began to write for Lawrence, Patti Page, the Ames Brothers, and several others. His first hit came in 1957 when Marty Robbins took Bacharach’s “The Story Of My Life” to the Top 20 in America and #1 in England. The single was notable for its composer, Hal David. David would collaborate on most of Bacharach’s hits, including 1958’s “Magic Moments,” sung by Perry Como. Bacharach’s mariage also fell apart in 1958. At this time, he went to Europe to tour with Marlene Dietrich.

In 1961, Bacharach again returned to America, and began writing a number of songs for the Drifters before he and David reunited. It would be at an arranging session that Bacharach would find the singer who became his biggest hit-maker, Dionne Warwick (Warwick was working as a member of the Drifter’s backup vocal band, the Gospelaires).

Bacharach and David wrote 15 Top 40 songs for Warwick from 1962-1968, including six Top 10 hits. Bacharach and David were also maintaining success in England where several artists were landing #1 hits with the duo’s compositions. Even though the duo was finding a lot of success, they were not busy enough, so began to write film scores for What’s New Pussycat?, Alfie, and Casino Royale. Their most credited film score was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, winning  Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Theme Song (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”). The two then won a Tony and a Grammy Award for their work on the play Promises, Promises.

It looked as though the ’70s were going to bring continued success for Bacharach. The Carpenters had a #1 hit with his “(They Long To Be) Close To You)” in July 1970. However, things did not turn out as well as was expected. David, Warwick, as well as his second wife Angie Dickinson, all left him, and his work suffered as a result. It was over a decade later that Bacharach had his next hit. It was in 1981 when he collaborated with Christopher Cross, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen on the Oscar-winning “Arthur’s Theme.” Bacharach and Bayer Sager married in 1982, and the couple wrote “Making Love,” a Top 20 hit for Roberta Flack. They also wrote “Heartlight,” a song that Neil Diamond took to #5.

Unlike the ’70s, the 1980s were much better for Bacharach. 1986 was one of his most successful years; he landed two #1 hits in America with “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung by an all-star group that included Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder) and a duet by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald called “On My Own.” In 1991, Bacharach and Bayer Sager divorced. He was able to work with Warwick again for two years. Bacharach continued to write for many of the industry’s biggest names, and was also cited as an influence on many modern-day acts. Burt Bacharach’s legacy as a prolific songwriter as withstood the test of time.

Artist information sources include: an article by John Bush at Allmusic.com

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1965 single Kapp K 685
What's New Pussycat

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