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Bacharach, Burt

warwick dionne david hit

Bacharach, Burt, 1960s tunesmith of frothy pop ballads, b. May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Mo. Burt Bacharach grew up in N.Y. and studied music theory and composition at McGill Univ. in Montreal in the early 1950s. He later worked as a pianist and arranger and served as Marlene Dietrich’s music director from 1956 to 1958. He subsequently teamed with lyricist Hal David (b. N.Y., May 25, 1921), who had been writing song lyrics since 1943. Early successful collaborations included “The Story of My Life” for Marty Robbins and “Magic Moments” for Perry Como. Initially, the two often worked separately. They were associated with a number of hits, such as Sarah Vaughan’s “Broken-Hearted Melody” (by David and Sherman Edwards), Gene McDaniels’ “Tower of Strength” (by Bacharach and Bob Hilliard), and The Shirelles’ “Baby, It’s You” (by Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams).

In the early 1960s, Bacharach arranged and scored sessions for The Drifters, meeting Dionne Warwick. He wrote The Drifters’ “Mexican Divorce” (with Bob Hilliard) and Chuck Jackson’s smash R&B and major pop hit “Any Day Now.” Bacharach and David began working together regularly in 1962, collaborating on many smash hits. These included Gene Pitney’s “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa,” Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin, ‘” and Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Into the 1970s, the duo provided Dionne Warwick with more than 30 chart records, among them being “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By,” “Message to Michael,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

Throughout the 1960s, Bacharach and David composed for films, providing the title songs to What’s New Pussycat? (performed by Tom Jones, 1965) and Alfie (performed by Dionne Warwick, 1967), as well as “The Look of Love” (by Dusty Springfield, 1967) from Casino Royale, and the top hit “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (by B. J. Thomas, 1969) from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . In the late 1960s, the two collaborated on the successful Broadway musical Promises, Promises, from which Dionne Warwick scored two hits, the title song and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”

Bacharach and David provided smash hits for The Carpenters (”Close to You”) and The Fifth Dimension (”One Less Bell to Answer”) in 1970, after which they ended their partnership. Bacharach and Dionne Warwick also ended their professional relationship in the early 1970s. During the 1970s, he performed in public to enthusiastic audiences, both live and on television. Having embarked on his own recording career in 1966, Bacharach recorded the symphonic suite, Woman, with the Houston Symphony in 1979.

In 1981, Bacharach began collaborating with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, (b. N.Y.C., March 8, 1946). She had provided the lyrics for a number of smash hit songs, including “Groovy Kind of Love” (The Mindbenders, 1966), “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (Melissa Manchester, 1975 and 1978, respectively), “When I Need You” (Leo Sayer, 1977), and “Nobody Does It Better” (Carly Simon, 1977). Their first collaboration, with Peter Allen and Christopher Cross, yielded the top hit “Best That You Can Do” as the theme to the film Arthur for Cross in 1981.

The couple married in 1982 and soon composed the hits “Making Love” for Roberta Flack and “Heartlight,” with and for Neil Diamond. In 1986, they supplied the top hits “On My Own” to Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald, and “That’s What Friends Are For” to Dionne Warwick with Stevie Wonder and others. The profits to “That’s What Friends Are For,” over $1.5 million were donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. The following year, Bacharach toured with Warwick, and he and Sager provided Warwick and Jeffrey Osborne with the major hit “Love Power.” The couple divorced in 1991. In 1995, he collaborated with British musician Elvis Costello on “God Give Me Strength” from the Grace of My Heart soundtrack. Later, the two worked together on 1998’s Painted from Memory .

With Hal David, Bacharach formed one of the most successful professional songwriting teams in popular music history, writing literally dozens of hit songs. Their compositions featured David’s Tin Pan Alley—style lyrics and Bacharach’s uncommon rhythms and distinctive melodies, bridges and modulations. In arranging horn and string parts for The Drifters in the early 1960s and for Dionne Warwick throughout the 1960s, Bacharach helped change the sound of contemporary rhythm-and-blues and soul music. After a fallow period during the 1970s, Bacharach reemerged in the 1980s with a number of huge hit compositions in collaboration with lyricist, and ex-wife, Carole Bayer Sager, including Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.”

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