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With a hit-single track record spanning four decades, Burt Bacharach became one of the most important composers of popular music in the 20th century, almost equal to such classic tunesmiths as George Gershwin or Irving Berlin. His sophisticated yet breezy productions borrowed from cool jazz, soul, Brazilian bossa nova, and traditional pop to virtually define and undoubtedly transcend the staid forms of Brill Building adult pop during the 1960s.
Born May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, he studied cello, drums, and piano as a child, and was later transplanted to New York City by his father, a syndicated columnist. The time spent in New York gave him a chance to sneak into clubs to watch his bebop heroes Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker; he also played in several jazz bands during the 1940s. Bacharach studied music theory and composition at the Mannes School in New York, at Berkshire Music Center, at the New School for Social Research (with Darius Milhaud), at Montreal's McGill University, and at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. A period in the Army interrupted his concentration of music study, but even while serving in Germany, Bacharach arranged and played piano for a dance band. He also played in nightclubs and backed Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart. Bacharach was discharged in 1952, and he married Stewart on December 22nd of the following year.
On returning to the U.S., he began writing songs for Lawrence, Patti Page, the Ames Brothers, and others, but his first hit came from Marty Robbins in late 1957 when Robbins took "The Story of My Life" to the American Top 20 and the number one spot in England. The single was also notable for its co-composer, Hal David, who became Bacharach's songwriting partner and collaborated on most of his big hits. The Bacharach/David team followed up in January 1958 with Perry Como's "Magic Moments," another U.K. chart-topper and a Top Five entry in America. Bacharach's marriage dissolved in 1958, and he left for Europe to tour with Marlene Dietrich. He returned in 1961, and wrote several songs for the Drifters with Bob Hilliard (including "Mexican Divorce" and "Please Stay") before reuniting with Hal David. At an arranging session, he found the singer who became the ultimate vehicle for his songs: Dionne Warwick who was working as a member of the Drifters' backup vocal group, the Gospelaires.
By late 1962, Bacharach and David began focusing most of their composing energy on Warwick, who was the recipient of 15 Top 40 singles from 1962 to 1968 (including the Top Tens "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Walk on By," "Message to Michael," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Valley of the Dolls," and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"). The duo also remained dominant in England, where Frankie Vaughan, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, the Walker Brothers, and Herb Alpert all hit number one with Bacharach/David compositions. As if their schedule wasn't busy enough throughout the '60s, the songwriters contributed film scores for What's New Pussycat?, Alfie, and Casino Royale. The film featuring their most celebrated score, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Theme Song for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (plus two non-musical Academy Awards). Bacharach and David began working on the musical Promises, Promises in the late '60s; it won a Tony and a Grammy Award (for cast album) during a popular three-year Broadway run. Bacharach hit the charts himself in 1969, with the show's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" reaching the Top 100. Surprisingly, this was not his only foray into recording; Bacharach had reached number four in the U.K. charts in May 1965 with "Trains and Boats and Planes," and he released several popular solo albums during the late '60s.
The beginning of the '70s looked bright for Burt Bacharach, as the Carpenters took "(They Long to Be) Close to You" to number one in the U.S. in July 1970. The forecast was premature, though, as three of his closest partners -- Hal David, Dionne Warwick, and his second wife Angie Dickinson -- left him. He gathered several accolades for an eponymous 1971 album featuring renditions of his previous hit compositions, but later albums were disappointing and Bacharach's next hit was over a decade in coming. Finally in 1981, he collaborated with Christopher Cross, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen on the Oscar-winning "Arthur's Theme." Bacharach married Bayer Sager just one year later, and together they wrote Roberta Flack's Top 20 hit "Making Love," as well as "Heartlight" which Neil Diamond took to number five.
Once Bacharach resumed composing he began to hit, and 1986 was one of his finest years, with two American number ones: "That's What Friends Are For" (by an all-star group including Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder) and a duet by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald titled "On My Own." He divorced Sager in 1991, but worked with Dionne Warwick again two years later on "Sunny Weather Love," from her Friends Can Be Lovers album. Also in 1993, Bacharach contributed songs to James Ingram, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tevin Campbell. Around the same time, many alternative bands began name-checking the hitmaker as an influence, and Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher joined him on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as well as including a picture of him on the cover of Oasis' Definitely Maybe. BBC-TV focused on Bacharach in a January 1996 documentary, and a three-disc retrospective of his compositions was released by Rhino in 1998. That same year he collaborated with Elvis Costello on the acclaimed Painted From Memory, and was celebrated at an all-star concert at Radio City Music Hall which later formed the basis for the LP One Amazing Night. The 2005 album At This Time found Bacharach writing lyrics for the first time. Tonio K helped with the lyrics, Elvis Costello, Dr. Dre, Chris Botti, and Rufus Wainwright also contributed to the album.
Burt F. Bacharach (pron.: /ˈæəræ/ BAK-ə-rak) (born May 12, 1928) is an American pianist, composer and music producer. He is known for his popular hit songs and compositions from the mid-1950s through the 1980s, with lyrics written by Hal David, as part of the duo Bacharach and David. Many of their hits were produced specifically for, and performed by, Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney and Gene McDaniels. Following on with the initial success of these collaborations, Bacharach went on to produce hits with Dusty Springfield, Bobbie Gentry, Jackie DeShannon and others.
As of 2012, Bacharach had written 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S., and 52 Top 40 hits in the UK.
Life and career 
Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in the Forest Hills section of New York City, graduating from Forest Hills High School in 1946. He is the son of Irma M. (née Freeman) and Mark Bertram "Bert" Bacharach, a well-known syndicated newspaper columnist, His family was Jewish. Bacharach studied music at McGill University, under Helmut Blume, at the Mannes School of Music, and at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, California. His composition teachers included Darius Milhaud, Henry Cowell, and Bohuslav Martinů. Following service in the Army, Bacharach worked as a pianist, both as a soloist and as an accompanist for singers such as Vic Damone, Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers and Paula Stewart (who became his first wife). For some years he was musical arranger for Marlene Dietrich as well as touring with her.
Early songwriting work 
In 1957, Bacharach and lyricist Hal David were introduced while at the Brill Building in New York City, and began their writing partnership. Almost a year later, they received a significant career break when their song "The Story of My Life" was recorded by Marty Robbins for Columbia Records, becoming a No. 1 hit on the U.S. country music charts in late 1957. Soon after, "Magic Moments" was recorded by Perry Como for RCA Records, and became a No. 4 U.S. hit in February of that year. These two songs were back-to-back No. 1 singles in the UK ("The Story of My Life" in a version by Michael Holliday), giving Bacharach and David the honor of being the first songwriters to have written consecutive No. 1 UK singles. In 1959, their song "Make Room for the Joy" was featured in Columbia's film musical Jukebox Rhythm, sung by Jack Jones.
In the early 1960s, Bacharach wrote well over 100 songs with David. The two were associated throughout the '60s with Dionne Warwick, a conservatory-trained vocalist. Bacharach and David started writing a portion of their work with Warwick in mind, leading to one of the most successful teams in popular music history.
Over a 20-year period, beginning in the early 1960s, Warwick charted 38 singles co-written or produced by Bacharach and David, including 22 Top-40, 12 Top-20, and nine Top-10 hits on the American Billboard Hot 100 charts. During the early '60s, Bacharach also collaborated with Bob Hilliard on a number of songs, including "Please Stay" and "Mexican Divorce" for The Drifters, "Any Day Now" for Chuck Jackson, "Tower of Strength" for Gene McDaniels, and "Dreamin' All the Time" and "Pick Up the Pieces" for Jack Jones.
Other singers of Bacharach songs in the '60s and '70s included Bobby Vinton ("Blue on Blue"); Dusty Springfield ("The Look of Love" from Casino Royale), (a cover of Dionne Warwick's "Wishin' and Hopin'"); Cilla Black (a cover of Dionne Warwick's "Anyone Who Had a Heart"), Cher ("Alfie" - originally recorded by Cilla Black); The Shirelles, The Beatles ("Baby, It's You"); The Carpenters "(They Long to Be) Close to You"); Aretha Franklin ("I Say a Little Prayer"); Isaac Hayes ("Walk on By", from the Hot Buttered Soul album); B. J. Thomas ("Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", "Everybody's Out of Town"); Tom Jones ("What's New, Pussycat?"); Engelbert Humperdinck ("I'm a Better Man"); Sandie Shaw ("(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me"); Jack Jones ("Wives and Lovers"); Jackie DeShannon ("What the World Needs Now Is Love"); Gene Pitney ("Only Love Can Break a Heart", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "24 Hours from Tulsa" and "True Love Never Runs Smooth"); Herb Alpert, ("This Guy's in Love with You"); Liz Damon's Orient Express ("Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets); Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 ("The Look of Love"); Jerry Butler, the Walker Brothers ("Make It Easy on Yourself"); and the Fifth Dimension ("One Less Bell to Answer").
Bacharach songs were adapted by jazz artists of the time, such as Stan Getz, Cal Tjader and Wes Montgomery. The Bacharach/David composition "My Little Red Book", originally recorded by Manfred Mann for the film What's New, Pussycat?, and promptly covered by Love in 1966, has become a rock standard; however, according to Robin Platts' book "Burt Bacharach and Hal David", the composer did not like Love's version. The title of the song is likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to Mao Zedong's Little Red Book, which was first published by the Communist Party of China in April 1964.
Bacharach composed and arranged the soundtrack of the 1967 film Casino Royale, which included "The Look of Love", performed by Dusty Springfield, and the title song, an instrumental Top 40 single for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Bacharach and David also collaborated with Broadway producer David Merrick on the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, which yielded two hits, the title tune and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", for Dionne Warwick. The year 1969 marked, perhaps, the most successful Bacharach-David collaboration, the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", written for and prominently featured in the acclaimed film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Bacharach's music is characterized by unusual chord progressions, striking syncopated rhythmic patterns, irregular phrasing, frequent modulation, and odd, changing meters. Bacharach has arranged, conducted, and co-produced much of his recorded output.
An example of his distinctive use of changing meter is found in "Promises, Promises" (from his score for the musical of the same name). His style is sometimes also associated with particular instrumental combinations he is assumed to favor or to have favored, including the prominent use of the flugelhorn in such works as "Walk on By", "Nikki", and "Toledo".
1970s and 1980s 
In 1970, Johnny Mathis issued a double-LP album set, "Sings the Music of Bacharach & Kaempfert," for Columbia. It consisted of 21 tracks in a heavyweight gatefold picture sleeve. The Bert Kaempfert tracks were done in the arrangement style of the German composer and orchestra leader, and the Bacharach tracks were in the American's upbeat style.
In 1973, Bacharach and David were commissioned to score the Ross Hunter-produced revival of the 1937 film, "Lost Horizon" for Columbia Pictures. The result was a critical and commercial disaster, and resulted in a flurry of lawsuits between the composer and the lyricist, as well as from Warwick. She reportedly felt abandoned when Bacharach and David refused to work together. Bacharach tried several solo projects (including the 1977 album Futures), but the projects failed to yield hits.
By the early 1980s, Bacharach's marriage to Angie Dickinson had ended, but a new partnership with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager proved rewarding, both commercially and personally. The two married and collaborated on several major hits during the decade, including "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (Christopher Cross), co-written with Cross and Peter Allen; "Heartlight" (Neil Diamond); "Making Love" (Roberta Flack); "On My Own" (Patti LaBelle with Michael McDonald), and perhaps most memorably, "That's What Friends Are For" in 1985, actually the second single which reunited Bacharach and singer Warwick. The profits for the latter song were given to AIDS research. Bacharach's 1980s tunes showed a new sound.
Other artists continued to revive Bacharach's earlier hits, giving them a new audience in the 1980s and 1990s. Examples included Luther Vandross' recording of "A House is Not a Home"; Naked Eyes' 1983 pop hit version of "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me", and Ronnie Milsap's 1982 country version of "Any Day Now". Bacharach continued a concert career, appearing at auditoriums throughout the world, often featuring large orchestras as accompaniment. He occasionally joined with Warwick, appearing in sold-out concerts in New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
1990s and beyond 
In 1990, Deacon Blue charted number 2 in the UK singles chart with an EP entitled "Four Bacharach & David Songs", with the first track, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" receiving extensive media coverage. In 1996, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner recorded an album of nine Bacharach standards that featured Tyner's trio with an orchestra arranged and conducted by John Clayton. In 1998, Bacharach co-wrote and recorded a Grammy-winning album with Elvis Costello, Painted from Memory, on which the compositions began to take on the sound of his earlier work. In 2006, he recorded a jazz album with Trijntje Oosterhuis and the Metropole Orchestra called The Look of Love (Burt Bacharach Songbook) which was released in November that year. Bacharach collaborated with Cathy Dennis in 2002 to write an original song for the Pop Idol winner Will Young. This was "What's in Goodbye", and it appears on Young's debut album From Now On. During July 2002, Young was a guest vocalist at two of Bacharach's concerts, one at the Hammersmith Apollo and the other at Liverpool Pops.
Another star treatment of his compositions was the 2003 album Here I Am featuring Ronald Isley, revisiting a number of his 1960s compositions, and also the Vandross arrangement of A House Is Not a Home.
Bacharach's 2005 solo album At This Time saw a departure from past works in that Bacharach penned his own lyrics, some of which dealt with political themes. Guest stars on some tracks included Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre.
On October 24, 2008, Bacharach opened the BBC Electric Proms at The Roundhouse in London, performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra accompanied by guest vocalists Adele, Beth Rowley and Jamie Cullum. The concert was a retrospective look back at his unparalleled six-decade career, including classics such as "Walk On By", "The Look of Love", "I Say a Little Prayer", "What The World Needs Now", "Anyone Who Had A Heart", "Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa" and "Make It Easy on Yourself", featuring Jamie Cullum.
In early 2009 Bacharach worked with Italian soul singer Karima Ammar and produced her debut single Come in Ogni Ora. A #4 hit, the song has been heard during the 59th Sanremo Music Festival and also features him playing piano.
Bacharach and lyricist Hal David were awarded the 2011 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song bestowed by the Library of Congress, the first time a songwriting team was given the honor.
Film and television 
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Bacharach was featured in a dozen TV musical and variety specials videotaped in the UK for ITC, several were nominated for Emmy awards for direction (by Dwight Hemion). The guests included artists such as Joel Grey, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, and Barbra Streisand. Bacharach and David did the score for an original musical for ABC-TV titled On the Flip Side, broadcast on ABC Stage 67, starring Ricky Nelson as a faded pop star trying for a comeback. While the ratings were dismal, the soundtrack showcased Bacharach's abilities to try different kinds of musical styles, ranging from (almost) 1960s rock, to pop, ballads, and Latin-tinged dance numbers.
In 1969, Harry Betts arranged Bacharach's instrumental composition "Nikki" (named for Bacharach's daughter) into a new theme for the ABC Movie of the Week, a TV series which ran on the U.S. network until 1976. The arrangement by Betts is published by MCA Duchess Music Corporation (BMI).
During the 1970s, Bacharach and then-wife Angie Dickinson appeared in several TV commercials for Martini & Rossi beverages, and even penned a short jingle ("Say Yes") for the spots. Bacharach also occasionally appeared on TV/variety shows, such as The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and many others.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Bacharach had cameo roles in Hollywood movies including all three Austin Powers movies. His music is credited as providing inspiration for these movies, partially stemming from Bacharach's score for the 1967 James Bond film Casino Royale. During subsequent Bacharach concert tours, each show would open with a very brief video clip from the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, with Mike Myers (as Austin Powers) uttering "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Burt Bacharach."
Bacharach appeared as a celebrity performer and guest vocal coach for contestants on the television show, "American Idol" during the 2006 season, during which an entire episode was dedicated to his music. In late 2006, Bacharach appeared as the celebrity in a Geico auto insurance commercial, where he sings and plays the piano. He translates the customer's story through song ("I was hit...in the rear!")
In 2008, Bacharach featured in the BBC Electric Proms at The Roundhouse with the BBC Concert Orchestra. He performed similar shows in the same year at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and with the Sydney Symphony.
Personal life 
Bacharach has been married four times. His first marriage was to Paula Stewart and lasted five years (1953–58). His second marriage was to actress Angie Dickinson, lasting fifteen years (1965–80). Bacharach and Dickinson had a daughter, Nikki Bacharach, who committed suicide in 2007 at age 40. His third marriage was to lyricist Carole Bayer Sager; this lasted nine years (1982–91). Bacharach and Bayer Sager collaborated on a number of musical pieces, and adopted a son, Cristopher. Bacharach married his current wife, Jane Hansen, in 1993; they have two children, Oliver and Raleigh.