Celebrated pop tunesmith Burt Bacharach has passed away. The songwriting heavyweight, who began his career in the famed Brill Building creative hub of the late 1950s and went on to reach millions with emotive orchestral pop, died yesterday in his Los Angeles home at age 94, according to news reports.
His hits are numerous: “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Look of Love.” One of his biggest collaborators was vocalist Dionne Warwick, with whom he made 39 consecutive chart hits including “Walk On By,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “This Girl’s In Love With You” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928, and raised in Queens, Bacharach got into music as a teenager, when he’d cross the East River to sneak into Manhattan jazz clubs to see the famous Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie perform. He studied music at Montreal’s McGill University, and after a stint in the United States Army — when he connected with crooner Vic Damone — he worked for several years as a pianist and band leader for a string of touring artists, ultimately returning to New York and connecting with lyricist Hal David in the Brill Building. David became one of his longest-running creative partners, and the two wrote over 100 songs with him in the first half of the 1960s alone.
The bulk of Bacharach’s activity was in the 60s and 70s, writing not just for pop vocalists but for television and film. However, he continued producing work and was celebrated in later generations as well, from collaborations with Elvis Costello, to The White Stripes covering his song “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.” He even showed his playful side through memorable cameos in the Austin Powers films in the late 90s.
Bacharach was honored seven times at the Grammys, including a 2008 lifetime achievement award, plus three Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy.
Many in the music industry shared condolences and memories of Bacharach today. Brian Wilson wrote “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.” A post on Dusty Springfield’s official Facebook page called him “one of the greatest modern composers” and said “so much will be written but right now I just want to say thank you for the music, you will always be remembered.” Stephen Bishop said “It’s hard to process that one of the greatest songwriters of our generation is gone. I’ll always think of Burt Bacharach as the King of Melody.”
In a 2018 episode of The Geator’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rhythm & Blues Express, famed Philly DJ Jerry Blavat — who just passed away at age 82 — spent an hour paying tribute to Bacharach, particularly his collaborations with Warwick. Listen to that episode of the show below, and watch this space for a recently-uncovered interview with Bacharach and World Cafe‘s David Dye from 2005.
The Geator’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rhythm & Blues Express – Tribute to Burt Bacharach, 10.27.2018
Spiral Starecase – This Guy’s In Love With You
Dusty Springfield – This Girl’s In Love With You
Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You
Perry Como – Magic Moments
Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)
Elvis Presley – Any Day Now
The Drifters – Please Stay
Ruby & The Romantics – Our Day Will Come
The Shirelles – Baby It’s You
Dionne Warwick – Don’t Make Me Over
Jerry Butler – Make It Easy On Yourself
Dionne Warwick – Make It Easy On Yourself
Dionne Warwick – Reach Out For Me
Dionne Warwick – Always Something There To Remind Me
Lou Johnson – Always Something There To Remind Me
Bobby Vinton – Blue On Blue
Jackie De Shannon – What The World Needs Now (Is Love)
Dionne Warwick – What The World Needs Now
The Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You
B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart
Timi Yuro – The Love Of A Boy
Timi Yuro – If I Never Get To Love You