One of the most famous and acclaimed composers of 20th century pop music has died: Burt Bacharach, who wrote countless chart-topping and classic songs for a variety of major artists, has died at 94.
Publicist Tina Brausam confirmed the news to the Associated Press, saying the composer died of natural causes.
Bacharach is regarded as one of the most important composers of 20th century popular music; the hundreds of songs he composed between the 1950s and 1980s include the signature, chart-topping hits of many major stars and iconic movie soundtrack songs.
He most often collaborated with lyricist Hal David, and many of their songs were made famous by Dionne Warwick, whom they wrote specifically for. These include classic songs like “Walk On By,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”
But they wrote hits for other artists as well, many of which topped the Billboard 100 chart. These include Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You,” the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” which became a hit as an all-star charity single benefiting AIDS research.
Bacharach also contributed memorable music to the stage and screen. He wrote the score for the Broadway musical Promises, Promises, and for films including Arthur and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Those films also featured two classic theme songs that were chart-topping hits and won Bacharach & David two Academy Awards: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from Butch Cassidy, and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).” Bacharach won an additional Oscar for the score for Butch Cassidy.
Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri but grew up in Kew Gardens, New York. He had an interest in music from a young age, particularly jazz. He served in the US Army for two years.
Bacharach’s music was often labeled as “easy listening,” and old-fashioned style and influences made his songs at odds with the burgeoning rock era. But Bacharach’s music defined the era in its own right: his buoyant pop songs and smooth, jazzy instrumentals will forever be associated with the 1960s. His songs can be heard in both Mad Men and Austin Powers.
And Bacharach was aksi widely respected by musicians for his rich songwriting talents, and his songs have been widely covered by artists of all genres.
“The shorthand version of him is that he’s something to do with easy listening,” Elvis Costello, a rock musician who collaborated with Bacharach, told the Associated Press in 2018. “It may be agreeable to listen to these songs, but there’s nothing easy about them. Try playing them. Try singing them.”
Bacharach’s accolades include three Academy Awards, six Grammy Awards, and the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded to him and Hal David. Rolling Stone listed the duo as #32 on their list of the greatest songwriters of all time.
Hal David died in 2012 from a stroke at the age of 91.
Rest in peace to the great Burt Bacharach, truly one of the greatest song composers of his time. His songs will live on forever.