Burt Bacharach, Oscar-, Grammy-, and Tony-winning composer of ‘easy listening’ tunes, has passed away in Los Angeles, his publicist confirmed on Thursday. Bacharach was 94 and died at home of natural causes,
Born to a Jewish family in Kansas City in 1928, Bacharach grew up in New York and studied classical music at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He started working with lyricist Hal David in 1957, producing their first US pop hit ‘Magic Moments’ for singer Perry Como.
“Music softens the heart, makes you feel something if it’s good, brings in emotion that you might not have felt before,” Bacharach told AP in a 2018 interview. “It’s a very powerful thing if you’re able to do it, if you have it in your heart to do something like that.”
Bacharach would end up with over 70 songs on the US Top 40 charts. Among them were ‘I Say a Little Prayer,’ performed by Aretha Franklin, ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ sung by Tom Jones, and ‘The Look of Love,’ a hit for Dusty Springfield.
He wrote a lot for Dionne Warwick, including ‘Walk on By,’ ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ and ‘A House is Not a Home.’
A failed musical adaptation in 1973 ended Bacharach’s partnership with Hal David, and the composer withdrew to his summer home and refused to work. Both David and Warwick sued him. He eventually reconciled with Warwick in 1985, producing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ to raise money for AIDS research.
Bacharach won seven Grammy awards, including the Lifetime Achievement gong in 2008, when he was proclaimed “Greatest Living Composer.” He shared an Academy Award with David for ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,’ a hit song performed by BJ Thomas in the 1969 film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ and received another Oscar for that film score.
His third Oscar came in 1982, for ‘Best That You Can Do,’ a theme from ‘Arthur’ he’d co-authored with wife Carole Bayer Sager. His other soundtracks included ‘What’s New, Pussycat?,’ ‘Alfie’ and the 1967 James Bond parody ‘Casino Royale.’
In recent years, Bacharach struck up a partnership with Elvis Costello, producing a number of popular tunes. A compilation of their work is scheduled to be released in March. In a 2018 interview, Costello dismissed the association of Bacharach with “easy listening.”
“It may be agreeable to listen to these songs, but there’s nothing easy about them. Try playing them. Try singing them,” he told AP.
Bacharach was married four times, to actress Paula Stewart (1953–1958), actress Angie Dickinson (1965–1980), lyricist Carole Sager (1982-1991) and Jane Hansen (1993-2023). He adopted a son with Sager and had two children with Hansen, a son and a daughter. The daughter he had with Dickinson died by suicide in 2007.