Burt Bacharach, the acclaimed songwriter and composer whose lush orchestrations, challenging jazz chord progressions, and effortless melodies made him synonymous with the golden era of American pop music, has died at the age of 94.
According to the Associated Press, Bacharach died Wednesday (February 8th) at home in Los Angeles of natural causes.
The six-time Grammy winner and three-time Academy Award winner was known for songs such as “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Born in 1928 in Kansas City and raised in New York, Bacharach used a fake ID as a young man to sneak into nightclubs and hear great jazz artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. While also drawn to the classical avant-garde — “I had been hanging out in New York with John Cage,” he told Jazz Times in 2004 — a summer studying at Music Academy of the West convinced him that his greatest gifts lay in melody. “The middle section of my piece was very melodic, and I worried that it was too melodic. [Instructor Darius] Milhaud said, ‘Never be afraid to be melodic.’” He never would be again.
Bacharach was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, eventually touring Army bases in Germany as a uniformed pianist. In Germany he met his first great collaborator, the singer Vic Damone. He toured with Damone after the war, and in 1956 became the personal conductor and arranger for film and cabaret star Marlene Dietrich.
By 1957 he found work in New York’s vaunted Brill Building, at the time the center of the pop music world. Through his connections at the Brill Building he met the two people who would forever be associated with his name. The first was lyricist Hal David, whose compact and witty constructions brought Bacharach’s melodies to life. That same year, they wrote Marty Robbins’ “The Story of My Life”which hit No. 1 on the US Country, and Perry Como’s “Magic Moments,” which peaked at No. 4 in the US and hit No. 1 in the UK. Bacharach’s second great collaborator was Dionne Warwick.