BURT BACHARACH (By Colin Kilgour)
Born Burt Freeman Bacharach, 12 May 1928*, Kansas City, Missouri
Not for the first time I want to include reference to the subject's main writing partner ....... and coincidentally yet again, the birthdays are - datewise - spookily close together. Burt wrote the toons and his lyricist was: Hal David (b. May 25, 1921 New York City and raised in Brooklyn). Hal studied journalism and landed a job at the New York Post before writing his first song in 1947 for bandleader Sammy Kaye.
Burt Bacharach is quite simply, one of the most accomplished popular composers of the 20th Century. In the 1960s and 70s, he was a dominant figure in popular music, writing more than fifty Top 40 hits. In terms of compositional sophistication, his songs stood apart from much of the pop music of the era. Bacharach songs typically boasted memorable melodies, unconventional time signatures and striking chord changes and combined elements of jazz, bossa nova, traditional pop and rock into a sound that was undeniably contemporary.
Bacharach's primary collaborator Hal David provided his music with Tin Pan Alley craft and melodrama. David's unsentimental, bittersweet lyrics offered a striking contrast to Bacharach's soaring melodies. While Bacharach's name in the 1970s became synonymous with elevator music, due in large part to the sheer familiarity of it, a closer listening suggests that his meticulously crafted, technically sophisticated music is anything but easy listening.
Bruce Lohof called Bacharach a celebrity songwriter who was to his day what Stephen Foster, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter had been to theirs. Burt had achieved a degree of visibility almost unheard of for a songwriter not primarily identified as a singer. He had even appeared on the cover of Newsweek.
It didn't hurt that Bacharach was married to the actress Angie Dickinson, a thinking man's trophy blonde who had been John Wayne's love interest in Rio Bravo, Frank Sinatra's in Ocean's Eleven, and, according to rumour, one of John F. Kennedy's in real life.
Bacharach and David's hits, because they were pop rather than rock, were anomalies in their own day - bridges across the generational divide, built by men born in the 1920s whose musical sensibilities were formed before the onslaught of rock and roll. While competing for a rung on the Top 40 with Lennon and McCartney and with the Motown songwriting and producing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Bacharach and David were also competing for movie assignments with older writers such as Dmitri Tiomkin, Johnny Mercer, and Jimmy Van Heusen. B & D were also, however fleetingly, men of the theatre.
*1929 is also widely quoted. The son of nationally syndicated columnist Bert Bacharach, our Burt moved in 1932 with his family to Kew Gardens in Queens, New York. At his mother's insistence, he studied cello, drums and then piano beginning at the age of 12. As a youth, Burt hated taking piano lessons. His dream was to play professional football but his size, or lack thereof, kept him out of that 'field'.
As a teenager, he fell in love with jazz and sometimes used a fake ID to sneak into 52nd Street nightclubs to see bebop legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Bebop's far-out harmonies and melodies were a major influence on the young composer.
When he was 15 Bacharach started a 10-piece band - himself on piano with high school classmates and gained exposure playing parties and dances. After graduating from Forest Hills High School, Bacharach enrolled in the music studies program at McGill University in Montreal. It was there that he wrote his first song, 'The Night Plane to Heaven'.
>From 1950-52 Bacharach served in the Army, playing piano at the officer's club on Governor Island and concerts at Fort Dix. While serving as a dance-band arranger with the Army in Germany, Bacharach met vocalist Vic Damone. After his discharge, at the age of 24, Burt became Damone's piano accompanist. He also worked nightclubs and restaurants and accompanied performers including Ames Brothers, Imogen Coca, Polly Bergen, Joel Grey, Georgia Gibbs, Steve Lawrence and a young singer by the name of Paula Stewart. Bacharach and Stewart were married in 1953 (and divorced in 1958).
When Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David met in the New York City offices of Famous Paramount Music Company in New York's legendary Brill Building, they were men of rather different backgrounds.
It was in 1956 (some quote 57), at the suggestion of Eddie Wolpin of Famous Music, that our subjects first began writing together. They scored almost immediately with "I Cry More" performed by Alan Dale in the movie "Don't Knock The Rock "(1957). The song has the distinction of being among the earliest Burt Bacharach compositions to be recorded.
By this time both had registered some success writing with other partners. Some of Burt's previous hits were "Any Day Now," "The Blob" and "Mexican Divorce". The rapport between Hal and Burt was immediate, as was their success. Soon they scored with two simultaneous chart items, "The Story of My Life," recorded by Marty Robbins, and Perry Como's "Magic Moments" (both whistlers). The team of Bacharach-David had been launched but their greatest success together wouldn't begin until a few years later.
>From 1958-61 Burt toured Europe and America as musical director, for Marlene Dietrich. Other Bacharach/David collaborations from 1958 to 1961 included the Jane Morgan single "With Open Arms" (covered here by Adam Faith), Connie Stevens "And This Is Mine" and a couple of Drifters B-sides. Despite their initial success together, both continued to work with other writers as well. Bacharach wrote with Bob Hilliard (the Drifters) "Please Stay" and "Mexican Divorce" plus "Tower of Strength" by Gene McDaniels and co-wrote the Shirelles' hit "Baby, It's You" with Hal's older brother Mack David and Barney Williams (a pseudonym for Luther Dixon). Hal, the ten-year veteran, saw his Iyrics reach the charts on records such as "The Four Winds and the Seven Seas", "Johnny Get Angry" by Joannie Sommers and Sarah Vaughan's million-selling "Broken-Hearted Melody."
"It seemed everyone was bouncing around," Bacharach recalled in Joe Smith's The Record: An Oral History Of Popular Music. ''It was almost incestuous. I'd write with Hal David three times a week and then I'd switch off and write with Bob Hilliard in the morning and then in the afternoon Bob would write with the same composer Hal had just finished with."
Other great SAO type faves from this era were "Loneliness Or Happiness" (with BH) from The Drifters, Chuck Jackson's "I Wake Up Crying" (with Hal) and Del Shannon's recording of Bacharach & Hilliard's "The Answer To Everything". Can this guy write!!
In 1962, Bacharach collaborated again with lyricist Bob Hilliard on "Any Day Now," a hit for Chuck Jackson but his greatest success that year was achieved in collaborations with Hal David, who co-wrote the No. 4 hit "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" inspired by the John Wayne/James Stewart movie. David encapsulated practically the entire movie in his lyric.
Bacharach matched him in ambition, juxtaposing a country fiddler against a full string section and using rhythms evocative of square dances and horse clops to capture more than the required hint of the Old West. Another B/D hit was "Only Love Can Break a Heart." Both the former were recorded by Gene Pitney. Bacharach & David also scored a hit that year with Jerry Butler's "Make It Easy On Yourself" which reached No. 20.
This latter has a lovely change where>>
"And if the way I hold him Can't compare to his caress .....
The A minor chord moves regally to up an A major - for
No words of consolation Will make me miss you less" (Magnificent!)
Bacharach worked extensively with the Drifters, arranging horns and strings. It was at a Drifters session that Bacharach met Marie Dionne Warrick, a member of backup vocal group the Gospelaires and niece of vocalist Cissy Houston. Warwick (as she became through the oft-repeated label misprint) was a trained musician - a music student who showed herself to possess a remarkable ability to navigate even the most difficult of Bacharach's melodies and tempos. Dionne began cutting demo records for Bacharach & David, one of which was "Make It Easy On Yourself." Warwick thought the song would become her commercial debut.
When the songwriters revealed that the song had been given to Jerry Butler, Dionne was livid. As it happened, Warwick's debut single and first hit was written by Bacharach and David in response to the misunderstanding over "Easy". As the singer recalled several years later, "It came about because of a sort of fight I had with Hal and Burt. Not really a fight but a little argument. I felt Burt and Hal had given my songs away and they felt they hadn't and that maybe I was being a bit unreasonable. Well, one word led to another... and finally I said, 'Don't make me over, man!' and I walked out. About a week later I walked back in. The mad was gone - and they had written the song."
The team of Bacharach & David went on to write and produce twenty Top 40 hits for Warwick in the next 10 years, seven of which went Top Ten: "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (1963), "Walk on By" with its driving wood blocks, flügelhorns, and strings (1964), "Message to Michael" (1966), "I Say a Little Prayer" (1967), "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (1968), "This Girl's in Love with You" (1969).
In the Sixties, Dionne Warwick generally got the first shot at any new Bacharach/David compositions and such was the case with "What The World Needs Now Is Love" in early '65. However, Warwick was not taken with the song and passed on it. Bacharach also doubted the tune's potential and it was left to Hal David to suggest reviving it for an upcoming Jackie De Shannon session.
1965 was a banner year in the career of Burt Bacharach. Here in the UK, where his recording of "Trains And Boats And Plains" made the Top 5, his popularity was at a peak. He lived in London for part of the year, directing sessions with David for Dionne at Pye Studios near Marble Arch and composing the score for the movie "What's New, Pussycat?" from his apartment in Belgravia. It was also the year that Granada Television broadcast "The Bacharach Sound" in which he starred.
Both writers grew frustrated at the lack of control over their own material. This growing dissatisfaction forced composer-arranger Bacharach into the role of producer. "There was never an ego thing on my end about being a producer" he says now. "I didn't care if I got the label credit or not. I just wanted to see the songs done right. I'd been shut out of a few record dates while they sat inside and ruined my song. So what I began doing, whether I was technically 'producing' the date or only arranging it, was to go in and make the record however I wanted to make it, whatever 'producer' was sitting at the console.
Everything got done right then and there. You got the vocal on, if not that day then the next night. It wasn't like it is now, where everything is staggered, strings one week, brass the next; you got the record made per se. You went in and executed a whole arrangement, right on the spot. Good or bad or whatever, it was there. And I knew that way it would get done at the tempo I wanted it and what didn't work with the arrangement I could fix immediately".
Besides their work writing and producing albums for Warwick, the team of Bacharach and David were also responsible for hits with other performers, including the Fifth Dimension - originally done by Keely Smith - ("One Less Bell to Answer"), Bobby Vinton ("Blue on Blue"), Herb Alpert ("This Guy's in Love With You"), Jerry Butler ("Make It Easy on Yourself"), Tom Jones ("What's New, Pussycat?", Jack Jones ("Wives and Lovers"), Dusty Springfield ("The Look of Love"), The Carpenters ("[They Long to Be] Close to You"), Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 ("The Look of Love") and others.
For "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa" - unlike with 'Liberty Valance' - in the absence of an actual movie, David had to invent a plot, a south-western noir about a man who succumbs to the charms of a beautiful stranger on his way home to his sweetheart. Bacharach's double-timed, out-of-phase mariachi trumpets give the song its nightmarish momentum: we half expect the singer and his new flame to go on a killing spree south of the border after the final diminuendo.
Unfortunately, a crumbling business relationship between Musicor mogul Aaron Schroeder and the song's composers put paid to Pitney's Bacharach & David period. Shame. Pitney said " 'Fool Killer' is probably my favourite Bacharach & David song," says Gene Pitney today. "Tragic how it got screwed up because of Aaron Schroeder's manoeuvring". The songwriting duo had a couple of tunes ("What The World Needs Now .. + Trains And Boats .. ") written with Gene in mind. But he would never get a chance to sing them.
The composers' pragmatic Brill Building background (although limiting at the time) and their diverse influences, helped them fashion music that knew no specific boundaries. It wasn't rock, it wasn't strictly pop, it was too soulful to be M.O.R. and much was somewhat R & B. It created its own definition. It was something unique and good; light and buoyant, or gritty and rhythmic, but always with that identifiable strain running through; that intangible quality linking song to song subliminally, though the interpreting artists, many of whom were poles apart. Sophisticated, yet of the street; elegant and funky - it was contemporary music, of the moment, that transcended the moment and would sound as fresh, decades ahead as it did the day it was first heard.
The variety of Bacharach's songs just for Pitney should indicate that there is no such thing as a typical Bacharach song, despite the composer's many identifiable melodic traits. Writers of early feature stories on Bacharach marvelled that his songs had achieved great popularity despite offering nothing that the man on the street could easily whistle. A more justifiable complaint would have been about Bacharach's failure to give dancers much of a toehold.
Many of the flourishes that one might think characterise Bacharach as a songwriter turn out on closer inspection to be evidence of his skills as an orchestrator. Tone colour and voicing are as important to Bacharach as they were to Debussy and Ellington. He hears bells: triangle and chimes on "You'll Never Get to Heaven," vibes on "Alfie" and "Make It Easy on Yourself," glockenspiel on "A House Is Not a Home." We hear a poky trumpet or flugelhorn in many of his songs where in others of the era we would hear a honking tenor saxophone. Even when a sax is featured, as on Dusty Springfield's hit recording of "The Look of Love" from 1967, it is light and airy - consciously evocative of Stan Getz rather than of King Curtis and set atop rhythms borrowed from Brazilian samba and bossa nova.
Bacharach's melodic phrases often extended across several bar lines and David often wrote uncommonly long, complex sentences. The team's movie title songs provide the best evidence of David's resourcefulness. It's no easy trick to craft an affecting lyric about love and separation around a song called "A House Is Not a Home".
Then David put secular humanism on the hit parade .......
"As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie, I know there's something much more, Something even non-believers can believe in ... "
The 'Alfie' lyrics enjoin an intricate, spiral-staircase of a melody and ponder the complexity in a couplet like
"And if only fools are kind, Alfie Then I guess it is wise to be cruel ... "
Hal and Burt wrote and co-produced a chain of hits that earned an immediate and permanent place in the consciousness of those who heard them. "Anyone Who Had A Heart," "Are You There With Another Girl," "Reach Out For Me," "Message to Martha/Michael", "Don't Make Me Over" -- these and others were classic singles, three-minute pieces of magic coming out of the radio to complement your life.
Following a date arranged by his parents, Burt met and married screen star and Rat Pack member Angie Dickinson (married 1966 - having 'eloped' to Vegas, divorced - 1980). Through Angie, Bacharach moved into film scores. His credits include the title song to Alfie, a hit for Dionne Warwick and Cilla Black - also for Cher and film scores for What's New, Pussycat?, (its title song a Top 5 hit for Tom Jones in 1965), After The Fox, Casino Royale (which originated "The Look of Love") and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which spawned the No. 1 hit "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and earned Bacharach a pair of Oscars (Best Score and Best Theme Song) as well as a Grammy for best score. A less-well known theatrical project of Bacharach & David is the 1966 television musical On the Flip Side (1966), which starred Rick Nelson as a pop star whose lustre had faded (co-star Joannie Sommers)
Bacharach and David's explosion of hits in the mid 60s was one of the extraordinary events in a remarkable musical decade. Going against the tidal stream of rock, they synthesized their own blend of pop, R&B and mainstream ballads, adding quirky rhythms and interval-stretching melodies rarely heard before in popular music.
As the 1960s sped from "Beach Blanket Bingo" through Beatlemania to Psychedelia, Vietnam and beyond, the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David played on in the background. Though never credited with bringing about any social, political or fashion revolutions, Bacharach and David's music was as much a part of the decade as the Beatles, the Stones or Dylan.
In 1966, Bacharach transcended his role as a songwriter to become a recording artist in his own right. His album Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays the Burt Bacharach Hits featuring mostly instrumental re-recordings of some of his best-known songs, became a hit in the U.K. He went on to release several more collections of his own recordings of his hits, including Reach Out (1967), Make It Easy On Yourself (1969), Burt Bacharach (1971) and Living Together (1973).
In early '67, Bacharach signed a solo deal with A&M records and in April, the label's co-founder Herb Alpert cut his first Bacharach tune, the theme from the movie "Casino Royale"
Dionne Warwick's next single, "The Windows of the World," was one of her finest efforts and proof that Hal David was quite capable of conveying a political theme in his lyrics. The song contained a subtle anti-war message, a theme that would be expanded upon several years later on the "Lost Horizon" soundtrack. 'Windows Of The World' is a song I felt very keenly about, recalled Hal David. "We were going through the Vietnam war and I had two sons - and still have them. And so I pictured my sons getting involved, particularly my older son who was soon going to be of age. And that was my feeling. I wrote that, I guess, as a political song from a father's perspective."
Bacharach and David had to date written plenty of big hit records among them some of the most memorable songs of the Sixties but they had not yet written a song which had reached the coveted #1 spot in America. It was inevitable that it would happen and it did in May 1968. It was a million miles away from Tijuana Brass fare like "Spanish Flea" and "Tijuana Taxi," but Bacharach and David's "This Guy's In Love With You" was the biggest hit ever released by Herb Alpert, sitting at #1 for four weeks. This was one of those 'trunk songs'- not a hit first time around (for other artistes).
Alpert charted again in August with another lilting, smoothly swinging Bacharach/David ballad, "To Wait For Love" (previously recorded by Jay and the Americans, Tom Jones and Tony Orlando)
After all their successful movie themes, the idea of a Bacharach/David- composed Broadway musical was very appealing and typically the duo did not disappoint. "Promises, Promises" with a book by Neil Simon was based on the 1960 Billy Wilder film The Apartment. It opened at New York's Schubert Theatre on November 23, 1968. It received great notices and ran for three years (1,281 performances) winning two Tonys and a Grammy for best cast recording which included the very popular "I'll Never Fall in Love Again". That particular song was written on a one-day deadline. The show later moved to London.
Bacharach soon went from being a behind-the-scenes favourite to being a star. When 'Promises' opened on Broadway, he eclipsed not only his nearly invisible lyricist but also the show's producer, David Merrick, and author Neil Simon, neither of whom was ever accused of being a shrinking violet.
It has to be said however that Broadway - live stuff every night, with that potential for errors - was a torture for the perfectionist and controlling Bacharach, something that despite his debut success, he was never tempted to reprise.
Bacharach and David's biggest achievement of 1969 came as a result of another film project, the soundtrack to the Robert Redford/Paul Newman classic "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid." For once, it was Bacharach who came up with the title for the B. J. Thomas smash. It is said that B.J. was given the number to record only after it had been rejected by Bob Dylan and Ray Stevens.
By 1970 Bacharach had expanded his solo career to include concert tours as well as two successful television specials.
In mid-1970, seven years after the song was written, "(They Long To Be) Close To You" reached the #1 spot where - like "This Guy" and "Raindrops" before it - it stayed for four weeks. The song's revival was the result of Burt and Hal playing the song to Herb Alpert, who in turn passed it on to the Carpenters, who had recently signed to A&M.
The song had made its first appearance in late 1963, on the flip side of "Blue Guitar," a minor hit for Dr. Kildare actor Richard Chamberlain. It would be re-recorded a number of times but the best-known version would not appear until 1970.
Apart from the Dionne album, 1972 was another lean year for Bacharach-David material, as the duo worked on their most ambitious project yet. After the success of their work on "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" and the Broadway musical "Promises, Promises" the natural next step was for Burt and Hal to write a movie musical and that's exactly what they proceeded to do. The project was a musical remake of the classic Frank Capra film "Lost Horizon"
So in 1973, Bacharach and David collaborated on a high-profile musical version of the 1937 film. It was a resounding flop with both critics and the public, the first real time the songwriting duo had been adjudged a failure. The soundtrack failed to score a significant hit (although the 5th Dimension's cover of "Living Together, Growing Together" reached 32) and Bacharach privately complained of the difficulty working with actors who were not trained singers.
Hal David: "'Lost Horizon' was a film that just didn't work. And the score suffered because of it in my opinion. Many people now seem to think the score's rather good".
As it turned out, the Fifth Dimension's minor hit was the last new Bacharach David composition to reach the charts. The enormous pressure of working on the soundtrack, compounded by the film's lack of success drove a wedge between the songwriters. Bacharach later recalled that, after the movie's disastrous reception, "I just went down to the beach at Del Mar and sort of hid. It was such a giant bust. I didn't want to be seen walking around the community." The strain on their relationship affected not only Burt and Hal but also Dionne Warwicke. Said Burt "When Hal David and I started to come apart, we weren't able to be there in the studio for Dionne. With broken contracts to contend with, the Bacharach-David-Warwick triumvirate expired in a mass of mutual litigation.
"Things happen with every group," reflects Hal David, more than twenty years later. "Through it all, the fact that we - at a certain point - stopped writing together is just really a blip in our relationship. We really remained very good friends all the way through, as we are today. I think time erodes. You're together X number of years. Your mind goes one way and the other guy's mind goes the other way. I didn't think there was anything abnormal about it, in retrospect. Everybody changes and you just go where your life takes you."
"It was a very messy situation and a very unfortunate time," said Bacharach. Looking back on the 10-year hiatus during which he only talked "through attorneys" with Hal and Dionne his hit-making collaborators of the 60s, Bacharach's primary desire was to put the past to rest.
"Look, there's no point in going over all the gory details," he said as he and David recalled the estrangement that began in the late '70s. "It's all over now. I had a falling out with Dionne, then Hal got involved. And if I had to do it over again, I never, never would do it the same way. For whatever reason, it happened. But we finally made our settlement".
Why Bacharach's moment ended so abruptly is difficult to explain, beyond observing that mass taste is unpredictable. Bacharach's relative success did diminish when he began working with his third wife, the singer and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager.
In 1977, Bacharach had his sixth solo album, Futures and in 1979 he released Woman, an ambitious album recorded in a single four-hour session with the Houston Symphony.
In 1979, Burt collaborated with Paul Anka for the soundtrack to the Italian film 'Together'. Jackie De Shannon's "I Don't Need You Anymore" was a minor hit. In 1981, Bacharach was back at the top of the charts with Christopher Cross' "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)," from the film Arthur, which Bacharach also scored. "Arthur's Theme" earned Bacharach his third Oscar and also united him professionally with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. Cross and Peter Allen shared the rewriting credits.
Carole had scored a 'performing' hit with "You're Moving Out Today" - a top tenner in the UK in 77. In the celebrity marriage-go-round, she was previously married to composer Marvin Hamlisch.
The partnership would prove fruitful. Bacharach and Sager, who married in 1982 (Sager gave birth to their only child, Christopher, in 1986) collaborated on hits for Sager ("Stronger Than Before," 1981), Roberta Flack ("Making Love," 1982), and Dionne Warwick and Jeffrey Osborne ("Love Power," 1987). Also Dionne Warwick and Friends ("That's What Friends Are For" 1985), Patty Labelle and Michael McDonald ("On My Own" 1986) among others. As well as "Arthur's Theme" the last two mentioned were also No. 1 hits.
Other BB 80s items were "Love Always," by El DeBarge, and "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To" (recorded by Kenny Rogers for the film "Tough Guys") the country hit nominated for a Golden Globe.
Bacharach and Sager divorced in 1991. Burt has been involved in thoroughbred racing as an owner and breeder for more than 30 years and his horses have competed in some of the sport's most prestigious events.
Around the early nineties Bacharach emerged from a relatively quiet period in his career with a number of new projects, most notably a reunion with Hal David and Dionne Warwick on the song "Sunny Weather Lover" from Warwick's Friends Can Be Lovers album. He also wrote songs for the likes of James Ingram, Earth, Wind and Fire and Tevin Campbell (SWL was the first song they'd written together in 17 years).
It was in 1993 that Burt married for the fourth time, to ski instructor Jane Hanson.
In 1995, Bacharach formed an unlikely alliance with Elvis Costello to write a song for the film "Grace of My Heart". Working from different continents via telephone and fax machine, the pair wrote the striking ballad "God Give Me Strength" The composition, which subtly evoked Bacharach's classic collaborations with Hal David and Dionne Warwick, served notice that Bacharach's talents had not diminished over time. The song was nominated for a Grammy and sparked a partnership between Costello and Bacharach that would result in 1998's 'Painted From Memory' which comprised 11 new Bacharach-Costello songs in addition to "God Give Me Strength" The duo embarked on a well-received mini-tour and in February 1999 won a Grammy in the Pop Collaboration with Vocals category for "I Still Have That Other Girl" .
For an appearance in London at the Royal Festival Hall in June 1996, Oasis' Noel Gallagher joined Burt onstage to croon "This Guy's In Love With You" .
Several retrospectives of recordings have been issued and there have been a slew of magazine articles, cover versions and tribute albums such as "One Amazing Night" (1998).
In November 1998, Rhino Records issued The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection, a three-disc anthology of Bacharach's work spanning his entire career, from Marty Robbins' 1957 "The Story of My Life" (Bacharach's first Top 40 hit) to "God Give Me Strength". Great, extensive liner notes at http://www.rhinorecords.com/features/liners/75339lin.html
Burt continues to write and tour. He and Costello collaborated on a rendition of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" for the soundtrack to the Austin Powers movie sequel and the duo make a cameo appearance in the film as well.
Though both Burt and Hal David are kept busy with other pursuits, they recently completed a new song together. Entitled "You've Got It All Wrong" the song was written for the recent Broadway revival of the musical "Promises, Promises".
In 2000, Burt composed the score and reunited with Hal David and Dionne Warwick for two songs for Isn't She Great, a film based on the life of novelist Jacqueline Susann.
A Tribute to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a July 2000 concert at Royal Albert Hall featuring Bacharach along with Dionne Warwick, Elvis Costello, Petula Clark and others was released on CD and DVD in 2001. Jazz vocalist Diana Krall recorded "The Look of Love" as the title track to her 2001 CD.
In March 2001 Bacharach filed suit for $15,000,000 against an Indianapolis theatre, claiming he fell owing to an uneven floor and broke his shoulder.
By all indications, Bacharach has undergone quite a resurgence in popularity over the last few years with artists such as Oasis, REM, Stereolab and Faith No More paying homage to him in interviews and through recordings.
He wrote with lyricist Tim Rice on "Walkin' Tall" performed by Lyle Lovett for the movie "Stuart Little".
Musicals based on Bacharach and David's music are playing around the world. Bacharach appeared in the Austin Powers film 'Goldmember' (which also included Susanna Hoffs singing "Alfie," here recast as "Austin"). Burt also began a collaboration with rapper Dr. Dre (!)
Whether or not Hal David and Burt Bacharach will ever collaborate again, the contribution they have already made to popular music cannot be underestimated. Their work was rooted in the tradition of great songwriting teams like Rodgers and Hart, as well as contemporaries like Goffin and King. Yet they took that tradition and carried it forward, their songs charting numerous times in the '60s and continuing to be covered in the '70s, '80s and '90s.
The current interest in their work far transcends any Easy Listening revival and that term seems an inappropriate categorisation for most of the Bacharach/David catalogue. The reason for the enduring success of their material is that they are great songs, both simple and sophisticated, from basic love songs to thoughtful philosophical reflections, pushing the boundaries of pop music while remaining commercial.
There were songs the pair thought should have been hits that were not. Hal is fond of "Everybody's Out Of Town", "This Empty Place" and "Windows Of The World." Burt's 'undiscovered' favourites include "Windows Of The World" and "Paper Mache." "I made them too subtle," Bacharach suggests of the latter two. "There wasn't enough energy in the mix. I treated them more the way I wanted to hear them, perhaps, than the way the world might have wanted them. They could have stood a little more grease in the sound. If the drums had been playing from the start on 'Windows Of The World,' if the feel had been a bit harder, I think we would have had a better chance with it." Still and all, Burt admits, "I wouldn't really change much of what we did."
I want to credit some other B & D classics: "Long After Tonight Is All Over" Jimmy Radcliffe: Musicor 1042, 1964. Like "(There Goes) The Forgotten Man", this song was intended for Gene Pitney. Jimmy Radcliffe was never lucky as a recording artist despite a handful of top class releases. This wonderful recording inexplicably failed to chart at all in the States but reached the Top 40 in the UK where it remains a perennial end-of-night favourite at soul clubs around the land.
"Everybody's Out Of Town" B J Thomas: Scepter 1970. This track has a certain Brecht/Weil quality about it but whether Burt or Hal would ever admit to that influence is unlikely. That zany trombone is certainly different.
"Send My Picture To Scranton, PA" B J Thomas: Scepter 1970. An excellent example of Hal's narrative style, this unacknowledged gem appeared on the B-side of the long tall Texan's 45, the top-tenner "I Just Can't Help Believing".
Quotes: "As a presence in the last half-century of music history, he's simply inescapable."
"He is the greatest American composer since George Gershwin and the closest to Gershwin anyone born in the second half of the 20th Century is ever going to see."
"Melodic, and then some, Bacharach's tunes have an almost supernatural ability to stick in the mind."
"If you asked thousands of record-buyers and record-makers who they considered to be the most gifted pop melodicist of the last 30 years, most of them would probably agree on three men: Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach." Melody Maker, October, 1995
"The music had a sophistication you would not encounter in the formulaic fare of the late '50s. It married unexpected rhythms with daring melodic leaps; it shimmered with rich jazz-like changes and complex harmonies; it teased with its uneven form and challenged with its mild yet exotic dissonance." Mojo, February, 1996
"Burt's the only songwriter who doesn't look like a dentist". Sammy Cahn
"Their songs transcended the films for which they were written"
"Some 600 compositions published, recorded by around 1,500 artists, upwards of 70 top 40 hits, five Grammys and three Oscars".
Burt Bacharach & Hal David are regarded by many as contenders for the title of the best writer of popular songs that ever lived.
"Along with Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, Bacharach is a legend in popular music. He revolutionized the music of the 1950s and 1960s and remains one of America's most popular songwriters, bracketed with such famous names as Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. As a record producer he ranks with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Phil Spector and a handful of tough-minded musical visionaries who pioneered new forms of rhythm and blues from the early '60s through the end of the 20th Century".
Websites: http://www.bacharachonline.com/ multi-layered
http://www.spectropop.com/BacharachDavid.html this is a goodie ^^^^^^^^^^
http://www.rhinorecords.com/features/liners/75339lin.html Extensive Rhino 3 CD set notes. What a great facility on their site!
Adapted from many different articles/items + my own input
It can be amusing to watch Burt in recent interviews ... He's a bit 'tortured'; hard work .. almost a parody of a parody. With time's winged chariot moving on, the once babe magnet is somewhat ravaged. That's a common enough affliction, it's just we don't want it happening to our heroes .... and with his track record, Burt Bacharach makes my Musical Top Ten year in, year out.
COLIN KILGOUR May 2003
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