Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BACHARACH, Burt

(b 12 May 1928, Kansas City MO) Songwriter, pianist, arranger, conductor. To NYC as a child; studied with composers Darius Milhaud, Bohuslav Martinu, Henry Cowell; after US Army service '52-4 was accompanist/arranger for Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, Vic Damone, then toured with Marlene Dietrich '58-63. In 1957 at Paramount studios he met Hal David (b 25 May 1921, Brooklyn; d 1 September 2012, Los Angeles), younger brother of lyricist Mack David; Hal had written 'The Four Winds And The Seven Seas' with Don Rodney '49, 'American Beauty Rose' with Lee Pokriss, 'Broken-Hearted Melody' with Sherman Edwards '58-9. Bacharach wrote 'Baby, It's You' (hit by the Shirelles '61, covered on the Beatles' first LP) with Mack, but his first hit with Hal was 'The Story Of My Life' (a USA top 20 for Marty Robbins '57); then 'Magic Moments' (Perry Como top five '58).

Bacharach became a distinctive '60s composer, catchy melodies concealing his personal and stylish rhythms and changes. He wrote 'Tower Of Strength' with Bob Hilliard (no. 1 UK for Frankie Vaughan; no. 5 USA for Gene McDaniels); David wrote words for Henry Mancini ('Baby Elephant Walk', from film Hatari! '62), but Bacharach/David was the great team: 'Wives And Lovers' ('63, Jack Jones), 'Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa' (Gene Pitney), 'Make It Easy On Yourself' (Walker Bros), 'There's Always Something There To Remind Me' (Sandie Shaw), 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself' (Dusty Springfield), 'What The World Needs Now' (Jackie DeShannon), 'Close To You' (the Carpenters) all '63-70. But their ideal interpreter was Dionne Warwick, with 'Don't Make Me Over' '63, 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' and 'Walk On By' '64, 'I Say A Little Prayer' and 'Alfie' '67, 'Do You Know The Way To San Jose?' '68, 'This Girl's In Love With You' '69.

Cilla Black also scored in the UK with 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' and 'Alfie'. In '65 they wrote film score What's New, Pussycat?, a Woody Allen/Peter Sellers/Peter O'Toole comedy; Tom Jones had the hit title song. That year Bacharach with chorus and orchestra had a no. 4 UK hit with 'Trains And Boats And Planes'. In '68 they wrote their only Broadway score, for Neil Simon's Promises, Promises, based on Billy Wilder film The Apartment, including the hit 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again'; it ran for over 1,200 performances and won a Tony. They won two Oscars '69 for film score Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and its song 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head'.

The Film musical Lost Horizon '73 flopped; the team with David had run out of steam and a requirement to produce Warwick sessions ran into trouble when they couldn't come up with material; Bacharach entered a lean period as pianist and conductor, singing in what his record company called 'a rumpled and earnest baritone'. No big hits '70s; albums did fairly well: chart entries were Reach Out '67, Make It Easy On Yourself '69, Burt Bacharach '71 (top 20), Living Together '74; Women '78 with Houston Symphony Orchestra flopped; marriage to actress Angie Dickinson failed; he married singer/songwriter Carole Bayer Sager (1982-91); they had co-written '81 Oscar winner 'Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)' with Christopher Cross. They performed at the White House together, wrote songs for Neil Diamond snd Roberta Flack, then reunited with Warwick (and guests Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight) on 'That's What Friends Are For', also 'On My Own' for Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, both no. 1 hits '86; also songs for new LPs by Knight and Natalie Cole.

David became president of ASCAP in 1980, worked with others, e.g. Albert Hammond ('To All The Girls I've Loved Before', hit for Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson '84). Many of Bacharach's songs are perennially popular; Anyone Who Had A Heart '97 on Broadway was a celebration of them, and he published an autobiography of that title in 2013. He was among those commissioned to write new material for a film about the Brill Building era. Two albums called What The World Needs Now were tributes, by Stan Getz in 1967 and McCoy Tyner in 1997; a two-CD deconstruction '97 on Tzadik by avant-gardist John Zorn was called Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach.