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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May 2004, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Pop genius of composer Bacharach
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Legendary pop composer Burt Bacharach celebrates his 75th birthday on Wednesday. BBC News Online salutes the king of orchestral cool.

Burt Bacharach
Bacharach's music is loved by generations of fans
In his autumn years he is a musical hero, enjoying the kind of status reserved for reclusive Hollywood veterans or retired world leaders.

Feted by new generations of fans, Burt Bacharach is the undisputed elder statesman of sophisticated pop.

During the 1960s and 1970s his jazz-infused melodies provided dozens of hits for a stable of artists including Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield.

Bacharach's string-laden arrangements, set to the lyrics of his former writing collaborator Hal David, were behind an astonishing 52 top singles.

Burt's hits
Baby It's You - The Shirelles
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Gene Pitney
Make It Easy On Yourself - Jerry Butler
Don't Make Me Over - Dionne Warwick
Magic Moments - Perry Como

His catalogue is formidable: The Look of Love, Walk On By, I Say a Little Prayer, I'll Never Fall in Love Again, This Girl's in Love With You, What The World Needs Now Is Love, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Anyone Who Had a Heart...

For several years a Bacharach-David writing credit was the hallmark of songcraft in a chart awash with forgettable, throwaway tunes.

Even when his prolific hit rate finally slowed, Bacharach remained actively creative, producing TV and film soundtracks into the 1980s and beyond.

Burt Bacharach receives an entertainment award at a charity event from Ruta Lee (l) and Debbie Reynolds
Bacharach has been honoured many times in his 50-year career
He was an inspiration for some of the sunniest post-punk pop of the 1980s, and the word "Bacharach-esque" often accompanied reviews of ABC, Prefab Sprout, Swing Out Sister and others.

After a long period in which he was overlooked as being unfashionable, Bacharach enjoyed a revival in the mid-1990s as spiritual father of the "lounge" music boom.

His influence could be heard on artists from The Mike Flowers Pops to the Divine Comedy as young listeners discovered the kitsch pleasures of Andy Williams and EMI's Sound Gallery archives.

From the hippest metropolitan DJs to a host of leftfield producers, Bacharach became the name to drop.

His devotees included REM, Pizzicato Five, Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, Ben Folds Five, and Oasis, whose debut album included a shot of a Bacharach LP. Noel Gallagher later joined his hero on stage for a run-through This Guy's In Love With You.

Burt's life
Married to Angie Dickinson and Carole Bayer Sager
Met Hal David at New York's Brill Building
Collaborated with Elvis Costello, Noel Gallagher and Mike Myers
He enjoyed a full-scale artistic renaissance working with Elvis Costello on the album Painted From Memory, released in 1998, containing 12 new joint compositions including the Grammy-winning I Still Have That Other Girl.

His most ardent fans say it is an insult to call his music "easy listening", pointing to its technical intricacies and meticulous composition.

As a teenager growing up in New York, Bacharach was greatly influenced by modern jazz, sometimes sneaking into nightclubs to see bebop legends such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Study

Born in Kansas City on 12 May 1929, the son of a newspaper columnist, his family moved to New York when he was three. He studied cello, drums and piano, later starting a 10-piece band with high school classmates.

Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick performed a string of Bacharach hits
Bacharach went on to study theory and composition. While serving as a dance-band arranger with the army in Germany, he met vocalist Vic Damone, and became his piano accompanist after their discharge.

He met Hal David while the pair were working in New York's legendary Brill Building. They had a hit during their first year of collaboration in 1957 with Marty Robbins' The Story of My Life, which reached number 15.

In the early 1960s they began working with Dionne Warwick, a young singer who seemed remarkably at ease with Bacharach's challenging melodies and tempos.

The pair went on to write and produce 20 top 40 hits for Warwick over the next 10 years, including Anyone Who Had a Heart, Walk On By, I Say a Little Prayer and Do You Know the Way to San Jose.

Burt's fans
Barenaked Ladies
Chrissie Hynde
All Saints
Wynonna
Sheryl Crow
Their other accomplices included Jackie DeShannon, the Fifth Dimension, Herb Alpert, Jack Jones and BJ Thomas.

Several performers had great success covering Bacharach compositions, including Aretha Franklin, Bobbie Gentry, the Walker Brothers, the Carpenters and Sergio Mendes.

Through his second wife, actress Angie Dickinson, Bacharach moved into film scores, writing the title song to Alfie and themes for What's New, Pussycat? and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Butch Cassidy produced a number one with Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, earning Bacharach a pair of Oscars and a Grammy.

Bacharach married again in 1982, to singer-songwriter Carol Bayer Sager, mother of his son Christopher. He continues to write and perform.

Which is Burt Bacharach's best song? What memories do his songs hold for you?

Long After Tonight is All Over in the hands of Jimmy Radcliffe or Irma Thomas is my personal favourite.
Thomas, Bristol, UK

The Look of Love is my favourite among so many beautiful and wonderful songs. I admire the way across the years that they have been adapted and covered by so many talent artists, a true tribute to a man of genius!
Sue Wallace, Workington, England

His most recent album with the great Ronnie Isley was one of my favourites of last year, and one of the best anyway. Just shows that class tells.
Kelvin Nel, Leigh on Sea, England

'Something Big' which features on the Espresso Espresso compilation is absolutely gorgeous and my favourite Bacharach track by miles. Beautiful music!
Jenny, Isleworth, England

Walk On By was always one of my favourites, although it's a tough call to pick one standout of the prolific and consistent Bacharach. The first time I remember hearing it was The Stranglers version. How many songs would translate so well from Easy Listening to Punk I wonder? The true test of a great song!
smike, london

I have been fortunate enough to see the amazing Mr Bacharach in concert three times over the past few years. He brings something special to his many fans and his music has been an inspiration to me since I was a child. He plans to be releasing a brand new UK album through Sony UK in the near future. Long live Burt!
Andrew Bayley, Liverpool UK

We should have an international Burt day where everyone sips cocktails, dons crushed velvet suits and lounges out listening to Dionne singing Burt and Hal's songs...
Andrew, Manchester, England

Whenever I think of Burt, I always think of the US TV ad he and Angie Dickinson used to do for Martini & Rossi (on the rocks) with Burt playing and Angie perched on the piano ... Those were the days!
Mary Ann, London

God Give Me Strength, Anyone Who Had A Heart and Make it Easy on Yourself are three songs that come to mind as among the best songs ever written and capture, both lyrically and musically, the emotional depth of love lost or love unrequited.
Eric Crane, Danvers, Masachusetts, USA

The Aretha Franklin version of I Say a Little Prayer sounds like it was recorded in a church hall, but what a voice, what a passion, what a song.
Andrew, Sheffield, UK

Difficult, if not an impossible question to answer as all of Burt/Hal songs are excellent examples of innate musical talent. My favourite must be The Look of Love.The piano and drum combo does it for me every time. Many happy returns Burt!!!
Kris - Peckham, Croydon, England

Don't Go Breaking My Heart as performed by soft-psych band Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends in the late 60s is a less well-known rendition, but stands up with the best of Burt's other songs.
Barilla, Manchester, UK

Mr Bungle Doing What the World Needs Now is a sight to behold. Mike Patton does the vocal justice for sure ! Burt's looking good for a 75 year old (and sounding even better!).
Phil Thompson, Aberdeen , Scotland

Without a doubt, Cilla's version of Anyone Who Had A Heart is the most powerful rendition of Burt's wonderful song. I also like his work for the musical Promises, Promises. A most under-rated Broadway and West-End show.
Kevin Cole, Leicestershire, England

And for my generation Burt Bacharach was revived through Austin Powers - International man of mystery. Thanks to Mike Myers for introducing him to us :)
Paul Corderoy, Athens, Greece

Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head is the song that does it for me. This is the song that kept going around my head again and again for 6 months. Simple and easy but effective.
Tony Simms, Kent, UK

What? No mention of his collaboration with Marlene Dietrich on her concert tour? How much more fabulous could it get?
Robert, San Francisco, US

The songs are so strong and sound so easy when they are done well. There have been some really painful covers, anyone have favourite bad cover version? One brilliant exception was hearing Bob Geldof do Trains and Boats and Planes a couple of years ago, which I thought was amazing. Also Elvis Costello really adds something to the song. Everyone is secondary to Dionne Warwick. Her phrasing is so 'lived-in' The songs have developed and changed with her. My favourite Dionne - A House is Not A Home, which is greater now at 60-something than it was at 20-something.
Tim, London

What a legend Burt is. My personal favourite is Magic Moments as it's such a catchy little ditty that never fails to put a smile on my face. Fab !!
Robert Westland, Bridge of Allan, UK

The Look Of Love has got to be one of Burt and Hal's best.. Wishin' And Hopin' with Dusty is pure genius on the record. Dionne's Alfie and Walk On By...these productions hit you like a heat-seeking missle aimed right at you!
Steve Owen , Los Angeles, Ca, USA

Wives and Lovers is my favourite. It's such a memorable melody capped of with some rather un-PC lyrics that can't fail to make you laugh. I gather that Jack Jones is prone to update it when he performs the song now!
Gareth Roberts, London, UK

I grew up with his music thanks to my mother who sang many of his beautiful songs to me when I was a youngster. It is very hard to decide on my favourite but I must say Dusty's I just don't know what to do with myself and The Look of Love are at the top of my list. Thank you Burt for giving us such a wonderful gift. Lots of love back to you!
Susan, Bacchus Marsh, Australia

All his hit material was musically wonderfully poetic to match Hal David's 'life experience' poetry in song. It always was goose-bumps time for me first time around and continues to thrill forty years on. My personal favourites are I say a Little Prayer and Alfie. The latter is like a sacred anthem the way it's constructed.
Laurie Prior, Torbay Devon UK




VOTE RESULTS
Which is Bacharach's best song?
Walk On By
17%
Anyone Who Had A Heart
4%
The Look Of Love
12%
Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head
11%
I Say A Little Prayer
20%
What The World Needs Now Is Love
11%
(They Long To Be) Close To You
7%
I'll Never Fall In Love Again
6%
This Girl's (Guy's) In Love With You
7%
Always Something There to Remind Me
5%
1822 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed


SEE ALSO
Dionne Warwick's long walk
13 May 02 |  Entertainment
Polar prize for Bacharach
15 May 01 |  Entertainment

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