Burt Bacharach, the legendary composer and performer who wrote hits such as ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, ‘Walk On By’, and ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’, has died at the age of 94. The Washington Post reports that Bacharach died at home in Los Angeles of natural causes.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1928, Bacharach soon moved to New York, where he would sneak into 52nd Street nightclubs as a teenager to hear such greats as Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. “They were just so incredibly exciting that all of a sudden, I got into music in a way I never had before,” he wrote in the 2013 memoir Anyone Who Had a Hear. “What I heard in those clubs turned my head around.” After studying music at schools in Montreal, New York, and California, Bacharach served in the US army, during which time he met the popular singer Vic Damone. He spent the next three years working as a pianist and conductor for Damone, and later accompanied singers such as Marlene Dietrich, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart in a similar capacity.
In 1957, Bacharach met lyricist Hal David at the Brill Building in New York. Their first breakthrough came that same year with the song ‘The Story of My Life’ by Marty Robbins, followed soon afterwards by ‘Magic Moments’, which was recorded by Perry Como and reached No. 4 in the US. These were also back-to-back No. 1 hits in the UK, making Bacharach and David the first songwriters to score consecutive No. 1 singles in the country. The majority of Bacharach and David’s hits were written specifically for and interpreted by Dionne Warwick, whose output together included 22 Top 40 hits, among them ‘Walk on By’, ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’, ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, ‘A House is Not a Home’, and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’.
Bacharach went on to write material for Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, the Carpenters, and many others, while his songs were covered by artists including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Costello, Alicia Keys, and the White Stripes. In addition to being an eight-time Grammy winner, Bacharach received three Academy Awards: best musical score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the song ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’ in 1970, and best song for ‘Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)’ in 1982. ‘Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)’ was one of several hits he wrote in the ’80s with songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, whom he married in 1982.
In the 1990s, Bacharach made appearances in the Austin Powers movies and collaborated with Elvis Costello on the album Painted From Memory. In 2020, he released an EP with multi-instrumentalist Daniel Tashian called Blue Umbrella.