Natural causes took the life of the singer and performer, who had 73 Top 40 hits in the United States and 52 in the United Kingdom.
Burt Bacharach, the songwriter and performer who elevated easy listening to high art, died at the age of 94. Bacharach’s representative confirmed to the Washington Post that the singer died of natural causes at home in Los Angeles.
In total, he had 73 Top 40 hits in the United States and 52 in the United Kingdom.
Bacharach, who was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928 and raised in New York, would sneak into jazz clubs as a teenager to hear performers like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as composers like Stravinsky and Ravel.
He received classical training at schools in Montreal, New York, and California, and after serving in the US army, he became a pianist for musicians such as Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, and his first wife, Paula Stewart. He also worked as an arranger and conductor for Marlene Dietrich during her late 1950s and early 1960s European tour.
Bacharach’s songwriting breakthrough came in 1957, when he met lyricist Hal David at the Brill Building in New York. They had back-to-back UK No. 1s with two of their earliest songs, Marty Robbins’ The Story of My Life (Michael Holliday in the UK hit version) and Perry Como’s Magic Moments.
Topped by David’s variously whimsical, wounded and earnestly romantic lyrics, Bacharach created expert arrangements featuring close vocal harmonising, string sections, jazz piano and distinctive details, such as twinkling percussion and whistled melodies. Bacharach’s classical training also helped him deploy unusual and characterful time signature .
He and David co-wrote a slew of timeless hits, including Aretha Franklin’s I Say a Little Prayer, Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat?, Dusty Springfield’s The Look of Love, and the Walker Brothers’ Make It Easy on Yourself.
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, performed by BJ Thomas and featured in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, won both a Grammy and an Oscar, while Bacharach’s music for the film won the Oscar for best original score.
Bacharach’s most enduring and fruitful collaborator was Dionne Warwick. Walk on By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, Anyone Who Had a Heart, A House is Not a Home (later a hit for Luther Vandross), and her own original version of I Say a Little Prayer were among their hits together. Warwick later won a lawsuit against Bacharach after he and David stopped working together, leaving her without material.
Bacharach told the Guardian in 2019 that the dispute was “very costly and unfortunate,” and that “I stupidly handled it wrong.” For the 1985 Aids charity single That’s What Friends Are For, he and Warwick reconciled.
Bacharach married three more times after his divorce from Stewart in 1958: Angie Dickinson in 1965, Carole Bayer Sager in 1982, and Jane Hansen in 1993. He and Hansen had two children, Oliver and Raleigh, who remained married until his death. Nikki Bacharach, his daughter with Dickinson, committed suicide in 2007 at the age of 40, citing mental health issues.
In the 1980s, Bayer Sager became a successful musical collaborator, writing lyrics for new Bacharach songs performed by Neil Diamond, Roberta Flack, and Christopher Cross, whose theme for the 1981 film Arthur earned Bacharach his second Academy Award for best original song.
After the mid-1980s, his hit rate began to decline, but he continued to pursue eye-catching collaborations with artists such as Ronald Isley, Dr. Dre, and Sheryl Crow. He collaborated on two albums with Elvis Costello, as well as a version of I’ll Never Fall in Love Again for the 1997 film Austin Powers.