(1928 - )
Burt Bacharach is a Jewish American composer of popular
He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and his mother encouraged
him to learn to play the cello, drums, and piano from the age of 12.
He despised his piano lessons. Instead of playing the piano professionally,
Bacharach wanted to play football professionally.
At Forest Hills High School Bacharach started his
own band and played at parties and dances. After graduation he studied
at McGill University's music program in Montreal. At McGill he wrote
his first song entitled: "The Night Plane to Heaven." Later
he continued his musical studies at the Mannes School of Music in New
York City, studying with composers such as Bohuslav Martinu, Henry Cowell
and Darius Milhaud. He was talented enough to receive a scholarship
to the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
From 1950-1952, Bacharach served in the Army and played
at the officer's club on Governor Island and various concerts at Fort
Dix. While still in the army he met singer Vic Damone, whom Bacharach
later accompanied at nightclubs and restaurants. Continuing to perform
at nightclubs and restaurants, he also accompanied the Ames Brothers,
Imogene Coca, Polly Bergen, Joel Grey, Georgia Gibbs, Steve Lawrence
and Paula Stewart.
By 1957 he met Hal David, the future lyricist for
many of his hits including: "The Story of My Life" with Marty
Robbins (1957) and "Magic Moments" with Perry Como (1958).
Bacharach toured Europe from 1958-1961 as the musical director for Marelene
Dietrich and recorded two songs with her in 1961: "Tower
of Strength" by Gene McDaniel and "Baby It's You" by
He also worked with the Drifters, arranging the different
musical accompaniments. Dionne Warwick was then a member of the Drifters
backup vocal group, the Gospelaires. Warwick and Bacharach worked together
on 39 chart records from 1962-1972 . Seven of them became Top 10 hits,
including "Walk on By," "Anyone Who Had a Heart,"
"I Say a Little Prayer," "You'll Never Get to Heaven,"
"Message to Michael," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"
and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."
By the end of the 60's, Bacharach and David decided
to try their hand at a Broadway musical. Promises, Promises was
successful enough to run for three years and the song title was a hit
for Warwick. Based on the film The Apartment, it earned a Tony
and the album earned a Grammy. With the help of his then-wife Angie
Dickinson (whom he divorced in 1982), a television acress, Bacharach
started composing movie songs. He composed the title song to Alfie, What's New, Pussycat, Casino Royale, Lost Horizon, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The last movie
included the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," a No.
1 hit for B.J. Thomas in 1970. Bacharach received two Oscars and a Grammy
for music in the film.
By 1966, Bacharach became a recording artist, producing
records of his most popular tunes. A BBC documentary featured him on
"Burt Bacharach-- This Is Now" in 1996, which was later shown
in the United States. Later that year he performed with Oasis at the
Royal Festival Hall in London. Another performance the following year
at New York's Hammerstien Ballroom featured his songs sung by Sheryl
Crow, Chrissy Hynde, Mike Myers, Barenaked Ladies, Luther Vandross,
David Sanborn, George Duke, All Saints, Wynonna, Elvis Costello, Ben
Folds Five, and Dionne Warwick.
Bacharach worked with Elvis Costello on "God
Give Me Strength" from the movie Grace of My Heart (1995),
a project that ultimately resulted in the 1988 record Painted From
Memory, a collection of 11 Bacharach-Costello songs. The two men
went on a small tour and won a Grammy in 1999.
His song, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"
(he and Costello worked together on the song), was featured in the Austin
Powers sequel, The Spy who Shagged Me . Bacharach also made a
cameo appearance in the third Austin Powers film in 2002.
He continues to compose music and perform today.