Burt Bacharach, the legendary composer who wrote dozens of pop hits, has died. He was 94.
Bacharach died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes, his publicist, Tina Brausam, said Thursday.
He was one of the most prominent composers in the 1960s and '70s, writing several top 10 hits, including Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”
He triumphed in many artforms. He was an eight-time Grammy winner, a prize-winning Broadway composer for “Promises, Promises” and a three-time Oscar winner. He received two Academy Awards in 1970, for the score of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and for the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
In 1982, he and his then-wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, won Oscars for “Best That You Can Do,” the theme from "Arthur." His other movie soundtracks included "Alfie," “What’s New Pussycat?” and the 1967 James Bond spoof “Casino Royale.”
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 12, 1928, Bacharach and his family moved to Queens, New York, in 1932. As a teenager, he developed a love of jazz music and organized a 10-piece band with his high school classmates.
Bacharach wrote his first song, “The Night Plane to Heaven,” while attending McGill University in Montreal, and later studied theory and composition at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, the Berkshire Music Center, and the New School for Social Research, according to Bacharachonline.com.
He spent two years serving in the Army as a piano player on Governor’s Island and at Fort Dix.
After he was discharged, he became the piano accompanist for Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, Imogene Coca and other acts before collaborating with lyricist Hal David, with whom he’d come to make some of his biggest hits.
Among the songs the duo co-wrote are “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and “Only Love Can Break a Heart” by Gene Pitney and Jerry Butler’s “Make It Easy On Yourself.” His songs were also recorded by singers including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Barbara Streisand and Aretha Franklin.
“The shorthand version of him is that he’s something to do with easy listening,” Elvis Costello, who wrote the 1998 album “Painted from Memory” with Bacharach, said in a 2018 interview with The Associated Press. “It may be agreeable to listen to these songs, but there’s nothing easy about them. Try playing them. Try singing them.”
Warwick said Bacharach’s death was “like losing a family member.”
“These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner,” she said in a statement. “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.”
In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Bacharach and David, who died later that year, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize in honor of their contributions to pop music over the decades.
Before the Covid pandemic, Bacharach regularly toured with his band and most recently had worked on projects with Daniel Tashian and Steven Sater, both of which earned Grammy nominations, Brausam said.
When he was not writing or performing he enjoyed watching horse races at Southern California racetracks.
Bacharach is survived by his wife Jane, and their children, Oliver and Raleigh, as well as his son Cristopher from his previous marriage to Bayer Sager. He was preceded in death by his eldest daughter Nikki who died in 2007.