Burt Bacharach  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

--"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969) by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

"But something bothers me here, a too-eager desire to fit Bacharach into cocktail kitsch. What I always heard was an exoticist, a composer so ingenious that he could condense a hybrid of soul and pop, Brazilian, Mexican and bebop, something as fugitive and impressionistic as Ravel yet as strong and immediate as rhythm and blues. All of those contradictory elements, melted together by a love of sound, seethed under the surface of perfect pop without ever disturbing the emotional impact of Hal David’s lyrics."--Exotica (1999) by David Toop

Related e



Burt Bacharach (1928 – 2023) was an American composer, songwriter, record producer, and pianist probably best known for the composition "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969).

He composed hundreds of pop songs from the late 1950s, many in collaboration with lyricist Hal David. Bacharach's songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 different artists and as of 2014, he had written 73 US and 52 UK Top 40 hits. He was one of the most important composers of 20th-century popular music.

Bacharach's music is characterized by unusual chord progressions, influenced by his background in jazz harmony, and uncommon selections of instruments for small orchestras. Most of Bacharach and David's hits were written specifically for and performed by Dionne Warwick, but earlier associations (from 1957 to 1963) saw the composing duo work with Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Gene McDaniels, and Jerry Butler. Following the initial success of these collaborations, Bacharach went on to write hits for Gene Pitney, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Jackie DeShannon, Bobbie Gentry, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, B. J. Thomas, and the Carpenters, among numerous other artists. He arranged, conducted, and produced much of his recorded output.

Songs that he co-wrote include "Make It Easy on Yourself" (1962), "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (1962), "Don't Make Me Over" (1962), "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (1964), "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" (1964), "What's New Pussycat?" (1965), "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (1965), "I Say a Little Prayer" (1967), "This Guy's in Love with You" (1968), "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (1968), "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (1968), "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969), "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (1970), "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (1981), and "That's What Friends Are For" (1986).

A significant figure in easy listening music, Bacharach influenced later musical movements such as chamber pop and Shibuya-kei. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Bacharach and David at number 32 for their list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.


Bacharach was drafted into the United States Army in 1950 and served for two years. He was stationed in Germany and played piano in officers' clubs there, and at Fort Dix, and Governors Island. During this time, he arranged and played music for dance bands.

Bacharach met the popular singer Vic Damone while they were both serving in the army in Germany. Following his discharge, Bacharach spent the next three years as a pianist and conductor for Damone. Damone recalled, "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." He later worked in a similar capacity for various other singers, including Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, 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.

In 1956, at the age of 28, Bacharach's productivity increased when composer Peter Matz recommended him to Marlene Dietrich, who needed an arranger and conductor for her nightclub shows. He then became part-time music director for 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.

In her autobiography, Dietrich wrote that 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", she wrote, "where music was similarly "much revered". In the early 1960s, after about five years with Dietrich, their working relationship ceased, with Bacharach telling Dietrich that he wanted to devote himself full-time to songwriting. 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."

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. Soon afterward, "Magic Moments" was recorded by Perry Como for RCA Records, and reached No. 4 in the U.S. These two songs were the first back-to-back No. 1 singles by a songwriting duo in the UK (the British chart-topping "The Story of My Life" version was sung by Michael Holliday).


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). 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. 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 a single "Move It on the Backbeat" under the name Burt and the Backbeats. 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".

Bacharach and David then wrote more songs to make use of Warwick's singing talents, which led to one of the most successful teams in popular music history. 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. Among the hits were "Walk On By", "Anyone Who Had a Heart", "Alfie", "I Say a Little Prayer", "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" She had more hits during her career than any other female vocalist except Aretha Franklin.

Bacharach released his first solo album in 1965 on the Kapp Records label. Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits was largely ignored in the U.S. but rose to No. 3 on the UK album charts, where his version of "Trains and Boats and Planes" had become a top five single. In 1967, he signed as an artist with A&M Records, recording a mix of new material and rearrangements of his best-known songs until 1978.

Although Bacharach's compositions are typically more complex than the average pop song, he expressed surprise that many jazz musicians have sought inspiration from his works, saying "I've sometimes felt that my songs are restrictive for a jazz artist. I was excited when [Stan] Getz did a whole album of my music" (What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays The Burt Bacharach Songbook, Verve, 1968).

His songs were adapted by a few jazz artists of the time, such as Stan Getz, Cal Tjader, Grant Green, and Wes Montgomery. The Bacharach/David composition "My Little Red Book", originally recorded by Manfred Mann for the film What's New Pussycat?, has become a rock standard.

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. The resulting soundtrack album is widely considered to be one of the finest engineered vinyl recordings of all time, and is much sought after by audiophile collectors.

Bacharach and David also collaborated with Broadway producer David Merrick on the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, which yielded two hits, including the title tune and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again". Bacharach and David wrote the song when the producer realized the play urgently needed another before its opening the next evening. Bacharach, who had just been released from the hospital after contracting pneumonia, was still sick, but worked with David's lyrics to write the song which was performed for the show's opening. It was later recorded by Dionne Warwick and was on the charts for several weeks.

The year 1969 marked, perhaps, the most successful Bacharach-David collaboration, the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", written for and prominently featured in the acclaimed film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The two were awarded a Grammy for Best Cast album of the year for "Promises, Promises" and the score was also nominated for a Tony award.

Bacharach and David's other Oscar nominations for Best Song in the latter half of the 1960s were for "The Look of Love", "What's New Pussycat?", and "Alfie".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Burt Bacharach" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools