Legendary Songwriter And Composer Burt Bacharach Has Died At 94

February 9, 2023 / Posted by:

Without even Googling, many of us can probably name a big handful of songs that came from the musical genius mind of THEE Burt Bacharach. So because Burt Bacharach had an impact on the lives of many, the world has lost a true legend today and one of the best to ever do it. Burt’s publicist announced this morning that he died at 94 of natural causes yesterday at his home in Los Angeles.

Burt Freeman Bacharach was born on May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, and his family later moved to Queens in NYC. Burt’s mother, Irma Freeman Bacharach, was a songwriter and taught him classical piano when he was a kid. But when he got to his teenage years, it wasn’t classical music that made his fingertips tingle. It was jazz. After graduating high school, he studied music with a focus on jazz at McGill University, Mannes School of Music, and Music Academy of the West.

In 1950, Burt was drafted into the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany, where he played piano and composed music for dance bands. Big band singer Vic Damone was also stationed in Germany and became friends with Burt. After Burt and Vic were both discharged from the army, Burt played piano for Vic for three years. In 1953, Burt married singer and actress Paula Stewart, and they worked together on her nightclub act (they divorced in 1958). By the mid-1950s, Burt started to make a name for himself and was hired as the conductor for Marlene Dietrich’s nightclub act. The two bonded, and Burt became Marlene’s part-time musical director, and they traveled the world together. When Burt wasn’t touring with Marlene, he wrote songs and, by the early 1960s, decided he wanted to devote all his time to songwriting.

During the time he was touring with Marlene, Burt met Hal David, and a magical musical union was born. In fact, one of their first big hits was Magic Moments for Perry Cuomo. In 1961, another magical musical union was born when Burt and Hal met Dionne Warwick. A year later, Dionne made her professional recording debut with Bacharach and David’s Don’t Make Me Over:

The dynamic trio of Bacharach, David, and Warwick would go on to make pop masterpieces that are now classics like I Say a Little Prayer, Walk On By, Anyone Who Had a Heart, A House Is Not a Home, You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart), and many more. The 1960s wasn’t only a diamond-encrusted golden era for Burt because of his partnership with Hal and Dionne, it was also the decade where he composed and arrange the soundtrack for Casino Royale, including writing The Look of Love with Hal. And Bacharach and David also wrote the songs for the musical Promises, Promises, which premiered on Broadway in 1968. During the 1960s, Burt composed Baby It’s You, (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, What the World Needs Now is Love, What’s New Pussycat?, Alfie, The Look of Love, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, This Guy’s in Love with You, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, and (They Long To Be) Close to You, which The Carpenters would record in 1970. Bacharach and David wrote Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head for the soundtrack for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it got them both the Oscar for Best Song. Burt, who also composed the film’s music, won the Oscar for Best Original Score.

By the 1970s, Burt was obviously a bona fide STAH and starred in several televised musical specials. Bacharach and David continued to write songs for Dionne Warwick, but by the end of the 1970s, Burt and Dionne had a falling out. 1980 is when Burt’s 15-year marriage to his second wife, Angie Dickinson, ended. Around that same time is when he met his future partner in love and music, fellow songwriter Carole Bayer Sager. Together they wrote On My Own for Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, and That’s What Friends Are For for Rod Stewart. By 1985, Burt and Dionne had patched things up, and she recorded That’s What Friends Are For with Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight.

In the 80s, Burt and Carole also worked with other songwriters to create Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do) for the movie Arthur, Making Love for Roberta Flack, Heartlight for Neil Diamond, and Love Power for Dionne and Jeffrey Osborne. Burt and Carole divorced in 1991.

During the 90s and beyond, Burt worked with everyone from Elvis Costello to Adele to Tevin Campbell to Dr. Dre. And in 1997, The Silver Fox of Easy Listening played himself in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Fun fact I learned while writing this post: Mike Myers was inspired to write Austin Powers while listening to Dusty Springfield croon out Bacharach and David’s The Look of Love on the radio.

During his legendary career, Burt won many awards, but he was a Tony away from EGOT!

Burt is survived by his fourth wife, Jane Hansen, and his children Oliver and Raleigh (with Jane) and Cristopher (with Carole). Burt and Carole’s daughter Nikki died in 2007.

Burt was so prolific that there were songs he wrote that I had no idea he wrote, like The Blob! And, of course, many of his songs have been covered time and time and again and will continue to be. So he will live on in this world through his music.

Rest in peace, Burt Bacharach.

Pic: Harry Langdon/Getty Images

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