Burt Bacharach Dead at 94
Burt Bacharach, the composer, songwriter, producer and pianist responsible for some of the most enduring pop songs in history, died Wednesday at 94.
Born on May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Mo., Bacharach played piano in officers' clubs while serving in the United States Army in the early '50s. His songwriting career began in earnest in 1957 when he met lyricist Hal David at the Brill Building in New York City. That same year, they scored their first No. 1 hit on the U.S. country chart with "The Story of My Life," recorded by Marty Robbins.
Bacharach and David scored another Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1958 with Perry Como's "Magic Moments," which peaked at No. 4. Despite their early success, the duo did not mint their official writing partnership until 1963. Bacharach and David wrote more than 100 songs together throughout the decade, working frequently with singer Dionne Warwick.
Together, they scored several Top 10 hits on the Hot 100 over the years, including "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Walk on By," "Message to Michael," "I Say a Little Prayer," "This Girl's in Love With You" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."
Listen to Dionne Warwick's 'I Say a Little Prayer'
Throughout the '60s, Bacharach also enjoyed successful collaborations with Tom Jones ("What's New Pussycat?"), Herb Alpert (the chart-topping "This Guy's in Love With You") and B.J. Thomas (the No. 1 "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," from 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), among others. Bacharach continued writing for other artists, composing for TV, film and the stage, and releasing solo albums throughout the early '70s. He had a falling out with David after the failure of the 1973 musical remake of the Lost Horizon film; Warwick subsequently felt abandoned by the duo as well.
Still, Bacharach enjoyed several chart hits in the '80s, including the chart-topping Christopher Cross collaboration "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" and the Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald duet "On My Own."
Bacharach's catalog enjoyed a resurgence in popularity around this time as other artists re-recorded his old songs. He and Elvis Costello co-wrote "God Give Me Strength," which appeared on the Grace of My Heart soundtrack in 1996. A full-length collaboration, Painted From Memory, followed in 1998, earning rave reviews and winning a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for the song "I Still Have That Other Girl." In January 2023, Costello announced the March release of The Songs of Bacharach & Costello. "To have written a song like 'God Give Me Strength' and simply stopped would have been ridiculous," Costello wrote in his 2015 autobiography Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink.
Listen to Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello's 'I Still Have That Other Girl'
Despite his vast catalog, Bacharach insisted he was not a particularly quick worker. He simply honed his craft tirelessly. "I'm not a fast writer. Never have been," he told the Daily Beast in 2013. "I may get the whole synthesis of something, or most of it, an initial impact. But you're not going to get something every day. But it's important that you visit your worksite every day, even if it's just to improvise, touch the piano, play some chords. Be in touch with your music. I equate it with being a tennis player on the circuit. You don't take three weeks off and expect to get by the first round at Wimbledon, you know?"