Burt Bacharach, American composer prominently known for his work from the 1950s to the 1980s, has passed away at the age of 94.
Bacharach was an acclaimed songwriter and pianist who composed countless hits with artists like Dionne Warwick, Elvis Costello, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, and the Carpenters. Some of his work would later be covered by other artists like Aretha Franklin and The Beatles.
The Grammy-winning artist was born in Kansas City, MO and was raised in New York. Per The Guardian, as a child he would, “sneak into jazz clubs underage to hear performers such as Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, while immersing himself in the work of composers such as Stravinsky and Ravel.”
He went on to study music at various prestigious schools, including McGill University in Montreal, Mannes School of Music in New York City, and the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, CA.
Bacharach first scored his debut No. 1 hit in 1957, alongside composer Hal David, with their song “The Story of My Life”, sung by Marty Robbins. He quickly saw himself at No. 1 again with his and Perry Como’s song, “Magic Moments”, coming out the same year.
In addition to being a Grammy-winning artist, Bacharach also built a successful career in film scores, most memorably with the song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, written for the 1969 Western film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song was performed by BJ Thomas and won both a Grammy and an Oscar, as well as the music for the film (written by Bacharach) winning an Oscar for Best Original Score.
The music Bachrach made was gentle and catchy, with a lot of emotion. He derived influences from all sorts of musical styles, from jazz to soul, and even soft rock or folksy tunes, reaching the most diverse of an audience as anybody.
Who he’s possibly most known for collaborating with, though, is singer songwriter Dionne Warwick. Some of their joint hits include “Walk on By”, “I Say A Little Prayer” (later covered by Aretha Franklin), and “A House Is Not A Home”.
Unfortunately, the duo suffered a falling out after Bacharach ended his and Hal David’s professional relationship, leaving Warwick without a composer. She sued Bacharach and won, to which Burt reflected on the event, “I stupidly handled it wrong.”
They would make up, however, when they recorded the 1985 single, “That’s What Friends Are For”, a charity collaboration that also featured Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight. The song raised millions for AIDS research.
Warwick gave a statement to CNN regarding her feelings after hearing the news of Burt’s passing.
“Burt’s transition is like losing a family member,” she started. “These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner. On the lighter side we laughed a lot and had our run ins but always found a way to let each other know our family like roots were the most important part of our relationship.
“My heartfelt condolences goes out to his family,” she continued, “letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”
Other acclaimed musicians shared their reactions to the news, including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Dave Davies of the Kinks, who called Bacharach “one of the most influential songwriters of our time.”
“I’m so sad to hear about Burt Bacharach,” Brian Wilson said in a tweet. “Burt was a hero of mine and very influential on my work. He was a giant in the music business. His songs will live forever.”
In Burt’s life, he married three times. His third wife, Jane Hansen, he remained married to until his death, and the couple welcomed two children.
Throughout his musical career, Burt earned six Grammys, three Oscars, and the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2012; an award given by the Library of Congress for a composer or performer in honor of their lifetime accomplishments in popular music.
Burt Bacharach will be dearly missed in the musical community, as well as the film industry, and his music will carry on for generations to come as both an inspiration and in memorial for his contributions to the art of songwriting.