Legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach, who scored an astonishing 73 top 40 hits in the United States across a 70+ year career in the music business, died in Los Angeles yesterday (Feb. 8) of natural causes. He was 94.
Bacharach wrote or co-wrote iconic songs such as “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” many in tandem with lyricist Hal David. He was closely associated with vocalist Dionne Warwick, who scored 22 top 40 hits with his songs such as “Walk on By,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”
His sound is closely associated with the swinging 1960s, perhaps best heard on the soundtrack for 1967’s Casino Royale, which he arranged and composed. It featured the Dusty Springfield-sung “The Look of Love” and the instrumental title track, which became a hit for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Tom Jones also had a smash hit in 1965 with Bacharach and David’s “What’s New Pussycat?”
In the 1980s, he found success with new lyricist and eventual wife Carole Bayer Sager on hits for artists such as Christopher Cross, Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, and Neil Diamond. His 1998 collaboration with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory, won a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals.
Bacharach was introduced to a new audience in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to cameo appearances in all three Austin Powers films, which took inspiration from his suave, sophisticated pop style. He continued to make concert appearances well into his 80s and re-teamed with Costello in 2018 for another album, Look Now.
“I first heard the songs of Burt Bacharach when my family was still living in a basement flat near Olympia in the late 1950s,” Costello said last month when announcing the collection The Songs of Bacharach and Costello, which will be released on March 3. “Never would I have imagined that my admiration for him would grow into a 25-year collaboration and friendship.”
“Burt’s transition is like losing a family member,” Warwick said in a series of tweets. “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 go out to his family, letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”
Throughout his career, Bacharach’s songs were recorded by everyone from Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin to Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, the Walker Brothers, and Luther Vandross.
Bacharach and David received numerous industry honors, including becoming the first songwriting team to win the Library of Congress’ George & Ira Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2011.