Burt Bacharach Dies

Heralded songwriter, musician, and producer who wrote numerous hits with lyricist Hal David from the 1950s until the 1980s. He wrote many popular songs, including 73 top 40 U.S. Billboard hit singles.

Burt Bacharach was born May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in Kew Gardens, on Long Island, graduating from Forest Hills High School in 1946. His dad was Bert Bacharach a well-known syndicated newspaper columnist.

His mother, Irma M. Freeman, was an amateur painter and songwriter who was responsible for making Bacharach learn piano during his childhood. He was interested in jazz as a teenager and used fake IDs to get into 52nd Street nightclubs. He got to hear bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie, whose style influenced his songwriting. Burt graduated with a Bachelor of Music in 1948 from McGill University in Montreal, under Helmut Blume[1],

Burt was clearly bound to go out on his own. He was an exceptionally talented, classically trained pianist, with very clear ideas on the musicality of songs, how they should be played, and what they should sound like. I appreciated his musical gifts.

Vic Damone

at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, and at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, California. His composition teachers included Darius Milhaud[2], Henry Cowell[3], and Bohuslav Martinů[4]. Bacharach cited Milhaud, under whose guidance he wrote a “Sonatina for Violin, Oboe and Piano”, as his greatest influence.

Bacharach is drafted into the United Stars Army in 1950 and played piano in officers’ clubs in Germany where he was stationed, as well as, Fort Dix, and Governors Island. During this time, he arranged and played music for dance bands.

“Walk On By” was the first time that I tried putting two grand pianos on a record in the studio. I can’t remember if I played and Artie Butler played, or if Paul Griffin and Artie Butler played, but here were two grand pianos going on. I knew the song had something. It was a great date. I walked out of that studio and we had done two tunes in a three-hour session, “Walk On By” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” I felt very good leaving knowing that I had two monster hits on my hands. You never know for sure but you feel a great satisfaction.

Burt Bacharch

In Germany he met singer Vic Damone and following their discharge, spent the next three years as a pianist and conductor for Damone. After that he worked for artists including Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, Georgia Gibbs, and Paula Stewart (who became his first wife). When he was unable to find better jobs, Bacharach worked at resorts in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he accompanied singers such as Joel Grey.

“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” was written quicker than any song that I ever wrote with Hal. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I’d been on the road and gotten pneumonia. We were on the road with Promises, Promises, and we’d try to get this song written and into the show the next night or two nights later. That’s where Hal’s line came from, (recites lyric) “What do you do when you kiss a girl, you get another germs to catch an ammonia, after you do she’ll never phone ya.” So having been in the hospital for five days with pneumonia, I got out and struggled to write that song feeling not too great. You should take a rest after that and not go back into the Broadway show environment out on the road, Jesus!

Burt Bacharach

In 1956 he became part-time music director for Marlene Dietrich, the actress and singer who had been an international screen star in the 1930s. They toured worldwide off and on until the early 1960s. When they were not touring, he wrote songs As a result of his collaboration with Dietrich, he gained his first major recognition as a conductor and arranger.

Bacharach loved touring in Russia and Poland because the violinists were extraordinary and musicians were greatly appreciated by the public. He liked Edinburgh and Paris, along with the Scandinavian countries, and he also felt at home in Israel, where music was similarly “much revered”. [She thought of her time with him as] seventh heaven … As a man, he embodied everything a woman could wish for … How many such men are there? For me he was the only one.”

Marlene Dietrich from her autobiography

In 1957, Bacharach and lyricist Hal David met while at the Brill Building in New York City, and began their writing partnership. They received a career breakthrough when their song “The Story of My Life” was recorded by Marty Robbins, becoming a No. 1 hit on the U.S. Country Chart in 1957. The same year they wrote “Magic Moments”, recorded by Perry Como and reaching # 1 in the UK.

Despite Bacharach’s early success with Hal David, he spent several years in the early 1960s writing songs with other lyricists, primarily Bob Hilliard. Some of the more successful Bacharach-Hilliard songs include “Please Stay” (The Drifters, 1961), “Tower of Strength” (Gene McDaniels, 1961), “Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)” (Chuck Jackson, 1962), and “Mexican Divorce” (The Drifters, 1962).

“Alfie” could be as close to the best song Hal and I ever wrote. It was a hard one to write because most of it had to be said lyrically at first. I had to set it musically and it was challenging but it turned out great. We went in and recorded it quickly with Dionne (Warwick) because the original record was with Cher. Sonny (Bono) made the record with Cher and that was different than how I had envisioned it.

Burt Bacharach

In 1961 Bacharach was credited as arranger and producer, for the first time on both label and sleeve, for the song “Three Wheels on My Wagon” written jointly with Hilliard for Dick Van Dyke. Bacharach and David formed a writing partnership in 1963. Bacharach’s career received a boost when singer Jerry Butler asked to record “Make It Easy on Yourself” and also wanted him to direct the recording sessions.

It became the first time Bacharach managed the entire recording process for one of his own songs. In the early and mid-1960s, Bacharach wrote well over a hundred songs with David.

“What the World Needs Now Is Love“. Dionne rejected that song. She might have thought it was too preachy and I thought Dionne was probably right. Hal pushed me to play it for Jackie DeShannon who we were gonna record otherwise I would have let it be and it would still be in the drawer. Once I heard Jackie sing four bars of it, I thought, Jesus, this is great. Jackie had such a great voice. Love her voice. Whether it’s a song she wrote herself or singing “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” she’s special. I wish we could have repeated that success with Jackie but the material we gave her on the next session wasn’t as good.

Burt Bacharach

In 1961, Bacharach discovered singer Dionne Warwick while she was a session accompanist. That year the two, along with Dionne’s sister Dee Dee Warwick, released the single “Move It on the Backbeat” under the name Burt and the Backbeats.

“Raindrops” was done for the score. When you’re scoring a motion picture you service the picture and there was that scene with the bicycle. I did keep hearing that title, I must say. That is my title, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” Hal tried to change it and come up with another lyric but it never seemed to work as well. I watched the film so much when I was scoring it. It was a convenient way to get B.J. Thomas to sing it because he was in the stable of Scepter at the time. Our first choice was Ray Stevens. They flew Ray out to see the picture and hear the song, but he didn’t like the picture and he didn’t like the song.

Burt Bacharach

The lyrics for this Bacharach composition were provided by Hal David’s brother Mack David. Dionne made her professional recording debut the following year with her first hit, “Don’t Make Me Over”. Over the next 20 years, Warwick’s recordings of his songs sold over 12 million copies,  with 38 singles making the charts and 22 in the Top 40.

Hal David/Burt Bacharach Compositions 1961-1973
(very partial list)
  • “Baby It’s You” The Shirelles (covered by The Beatles)
  • “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” Gene Pitney
  • “(It’s) Wonderful to Be Young” Cliff Richard
  • “Wishin’ and Hopin'” Dionne Warwick
  • “Blue on Blue” Bobby Vinton
  • “In The Land Of Make Believe” The Drifters
  • “Be True to Yourself” Bobby Vee
  • “Saturday Sunshine” Burt Bacharach
  • “(They Long to Be) Close to You” Richard Chamberlain
    (Covered by the Carpenters)
  • “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” Gene Pitney
  • “Send me no Flowers” Doris Day
  • “Walk On By” Dionne Warwick
    (Covered by Isaac Hayes / The Undisputed Truth / Stranglers)
  • “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” Dionne Warwick
  • “Trains and Boats and Planes” Burt Bacharach
    (Covered by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas / Fountains of Wayne)
  • “What the World Needs Now Is Love” Jackie DeShannon
  • “What’s New Pussycat?” Tom Jones
  • “My Little Red Book” Manfred Mann
  • “Alfie” Cilla Black
  • “Casino Royale” Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
  • “The Look of Love” Dusty Springfield
  • “I Say a Little Prayer” Dionne Warwick (Covered by Aretha Franklin)
  • “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” Dionne Warwick
  • “This Guy’s in Love with You” Herb Alpert
  • “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” Burt Bacharach (Covered by Bobbie Gentry)
  • “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” B. J. Thomas
  • “Living Together, Growing Together” The 5th Dimension
  • “Lost Horizon” Shawn Phillips

Overall Burt Bacharach wrote 73 US and 52 UK Top 40 hits, and was considered one of the most important composers of 20th-century popular music. His second marriage was to actress Angie Dickinson, lasting for 15 years from 1965 to 1980.

Hal and I never really socialized, except for going to the bar at the local Chinese restaurant to celebrate a particularly good recording session. Basically, we did our work and didn’t hang out. Like many relationships, ours had its bumps. The big bump — a disagreement that arose during the failed attempt to remake the film Lost Horizon as a musical — was most unfortunate. Hal and I didn’t speak for 10 years except through our lawyers, and I will take the count for that one — my fault. What we might have written in those 10 years we’ll never know. Hal, we had a great run and I’m so grateful we ever met.

Burt Bacharach – speaking in 2012 about Hal David’s death

Burt’s third marriage was to songwriter Carole Bayer Sager from 1982 to 1991. He found his greatest interpreter since Ms. Warwick in the pop-soul balladeer Luther Vandross, whose lush 1980s remakes of “A House Is Not a Home” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart” transformed them into dreamy quasi-operatic arias decorated with florid gospel melismas.

He married his fourth wife, Jane Hansen, in 1993. She survives him, along with their son, Oliver; their daughter, Raleigh; and a son, Cristopher, from his marriage to Ms. Sager. Nikki Bacharach, his daughter with Angie Dickinson, committed suicide in 2007.

Burt Bacharach appeared as himself 141 times (including)
  • Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records (2021)
  • The British Invasion (2010)
  • The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2004)
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
  • The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2000)
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
  • Late Show with David Letterman (1997 – 1998)
  • The Nanny (1993) one episode
  • Solid Gold (1986)
  • The Merv Griffin Show (1967-1982) 8 episodes
  • American Bandstand (1980)
  • This Is Your Life (1970)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1968-1970) 2 episodes
  • Top of the Pops (1965) 2 episodes
  • Ready, Steady, Go! (1964-1965) 2 episodes
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar (1960)

The Bacharach-David team was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. Forty years later, shortly before Mr. David died at age 91, the two received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress.

Burt Bacharach Compositions 1980-2003 (partial list)
  • “I Don’t Need You Anymore” Jackie DeShannon – co-writer Paul Anka
  • “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” Christopher Cross
    – co-writers Christopher Cross, Carole Bayer Sager, Peter Allen
  • “Night Shift” Quarterflash – co-writers Carole Bayer Sager, Marvin Ross
  • “Heartlight” Neil Diamond – co-writers Carole Bayer Sager, Neil Diamond
  • “That’s What Friends Are For” Rod Stewart – co-writer Carole Bayer Sager
  • “On My Own” Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  • – co-writer Carole Bayer Sager
  • “Over You” Ray Parker Jr. – co-writers Carole Bayer Sager, Ray Parker Jr.
  • “Toledo” Elvis Costello – co-writers Elvis Costello
  • “Beginnings” Cilla Black – co-writer Hal David

The shorthand version of him is that he’s something to do with easy listening. It may be agreeable to listen to these songs, but there’s nothing easy about them. Try playing them. Try singing them.

Elvis Costello

Bacharach was well rewarded, and well connected. He was a frequent guest at the White House. Burt Bacharach died of natural causes on Wednesday February 8, 2023, at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94.

Dick Van Dyke

  1. Helmut Blume, pianist, broadcaster, administrator, educator, editor (born April 12, 1914 in Berlin, Germany; died October 9, 1998 in Montréal, QC). A noted broadcaster and music educator, Helmut Blume combined his skills as a musician, administrator, scholar and public personality to a rare degree. He produced award-winning radio and television broadcasts for the CBC and opened the opera workshop at McGill University, where he served as dean of the Faculty of Music from 1964 to 1979. A music scholarship there is named in his honour. [Back]
  2. Darius Milhaud (September 4, 1892 – June 22, 1974) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and Brazilian music and make extensive use of polytonality. Milhaud is considered one of the key modernist composers. A renowned teacher, he taught many future jazz and classical composers, including Burt Bacharach, Dave Brubeck, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis among others. [Back]
  3. Henry Dixon Cowell (March 11, 1897 – December 10, 1965) was an American composer, writer, pianist, publisher and teacher. Earning a reputation as an extremely controversial performer and eccentric composer, Cowell became a leading figure of American avant-garde music for the first half of the 20th century — his writings and music serving as a great influence to similar artists at the time, including Lou Harrison, George Antheil, and John Cage, among others. He is considered one of America’s most important and influential composers. Cowell was mostly self-taught and developed a unique musical language, often blending folk melodies, dissonant counterpoint, unconventional orchestration, and themes of Irish paganism. He was an early proponent and innovator of many modernist compositional techniques and sensibilities, many for the piano, including the string piano, prepared piano, tone clusters, and graphic notation. [Back]
  4. Bohuslav Jan Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. He wrote 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and briefly studied under Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk. After leaving Czechoslovakia in 1923 for Paris, Martinů deliberately withdrew from the Romantic style in which he had been trained. During the 1920s he experimented with modern French stylistic developments, exemplified by his orchestral works Half-time and La Bagarre. He also adopted jazz idioms, for instance in his Kitchen Revue. In the early 1930s he found his main fount for compositional style: neoclassicism, creating textures far denser than those found in composers treating Stravinsky as a model. He was prolific, quickly composing chamber, orchestral, choral and instrumental works. His Concerto Grosso and the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani are among his best-known works from this period. Among his operas, Juliette and The Greek Passion are considered the finest. He has been compared to Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Czech folk elements into his music. He continued using Bohemian and Moravian folk melodies throughout his oeuvre, for instance in The Opening of the Springs. His symphonic career began when he emigrated to the United States in 1941, fleeing the German invasion of France. His six symphonies were performed by all the major US orchestras. Eventually Martinů returned to live in Europe for two years starting in 1953, then was back in New York until returning to Europe in May 1956. He died in Switzerland in August 1959. [Back]

Further Reading


Smooth Radio
Interesting Facts World
CBS News
The Washington Post
Burt Bacharach Online

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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