Burt Bacharach Dead At 94

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Burt Bacharach Dead At 94

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Burt Bacharach, the pop sophisticate who co-wrote and produced countless pop classics, has died. The New York Times reports that Bacharach died at home in Los Angeles yesterday. No cause of death has been reported. Bacharach was 94.

Bacharach’s family issued this statement through his social media accounts: “It is with saddened hearts that we share the passing of our father, husband and friend. He gave the world so much, and we are eternally grateful. The music is always there, so please keep listening. We send our love from team Bacharach, because that’s what friends are for.”

Burt Bacharach was born in Kansas City, but he grew up in New York. At a young age, Bacharach started playing piano and fell in love with jazz. He studied music at several colleges and served in the army for two years, playing piano in officers’ clubs while stationed in Germany. After his time in the army, Bacharach worked as a pianist for the singer Vic Damone, an army buddy, and then served as conductor and arranger for film great Marlene Dietrich’s nightclub shows. In 1957, Bacharach met lyricist Hal David, and the two of them struck up a long-lasting partnership, working at the Brill Building, the storied songwriting factory in New York.

Before working with Hal David, Bacharach had already dabbled in songwriting; Nat King Cole recorded his song “Once In A Blue Moon” in 1952. But Bacharach really took off when he teamed up with David. The two of them started off with 1957’s “The Story Of My Life,” which became a country hit for Marty Robbins. The next year, they wrote Perry Como’s pop hit “Magic Moments.” In his time at the Brill Building, Bacharach also worked with other songwriters, and he co-wrote songs like the Drifters’ “Please Stay,” Gene McDaniels’ “Tower Of Strength,” and the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You” with other songwriters. But Bacharach did most of his work with David. Together, they wrote “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” and “Only Love Can Break A Heart” for Gene Pitney, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” for Tommy Hunt, and “Make It Easy On Yourself” for Jerry Butler.

As a songwriter, Burt Bacharach developed a reputation for richly orchestrated, sophisticated pop songs. Bacharach worked with artists who came from the rock ‘n’ roll world, but his style was an adult pop that didn’t have much to do with youth culture. Still, Bacharach stood as a key figure in ’60s pop. In 1962, Bacharach and David discovered the session backup singer Dionne Warwick, and they wrote and produced a string of classics for her, including “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “Walk On By,” “A House Is Not A Home,” and “I Say A Little Prayer.” Bacharach and David were also responsible for Jackie DeShannon’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “What’s New Pussycat?” for Tom Jones, “Alfie” for Cilla Black, and “The Look Of Love” for Dusty Springfield. In 1968, they scored their first #1 hit on the Hot 100 when jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert sang their song “This Guy’s In Love With You.”

Burt Bacharach made his own records in the ’60s, but they were largely unsuccessful. He wrote for movies and Broadway, and he won his first Oscar for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” a #1 hit for BJ Thomas from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Bacharach married and divorced actresses Paula Stewart and Angie Dickonson. In 1980, he married songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, and they collaborated on more hits, including Christopher Cross’ Oscar-winning “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s duet “On My Own,” and Dionne Warwick’s all-star fundraiser “That’s What Friends Are For.”

In the ’90s, Burt Bacharach experienced a bit of a hipster comeback, appearing in the Austin Powers movies and recording the album Painted From Memory with Elvis Costello. He performed a Glastonbury in 2015 and recorded the EP Blue Umbrella with multi-instrumentalist Daniel Tashian in 2020. Below, check out some of Bacharach’s work.

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