Burt Bacharach, the three-time Oscar-winning and six-time Grammy-winning songwriter, producer, composer and arranger whose vast influence in American popular music stretched from the 1950s into the new millennium, is dead. He passed away Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles at 94.
His death was announced by his publicist Tina Brausam.
If you were an avid moviegoer or follower of popular music in the decade between the mid-1960s and the mid ’70s, it was impossible to avoid the massively prolific Bacharach’s compositions. His songs, many done in tandem with lyricist Hal David, included some of the biggest tunes of the era and numerous hits with singer Dionne Warwick: “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “What the World Needs Now,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Don’t Make Me Over” and the 1966 theme to the Michael Caine feature “Alfie.”
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That “Alfie” theme generated one of Bacharach’s six Academy Award nominations. Two of his three wins came for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in 1970, including score and original song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” with the third in 1982 for “Arthur’s Theme” from the film “Arthur.”
The composer’s soft, elegant instrumental melodies were a gentle counterpoint to the rise of rock and roll and edgier pop during his most productive era. Particularly in his collaborations with David, he was a virtual hitmaking machine, and among music-making duos of the 1960s their only rival was John Lennon and Paul McCartney in terms of success commercially and artistically. He and David were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
Bacharach’s top-10 hits were ubiquitous and plentiful and seemed only to ramp up with his move into film during his marriage to actress Angie Dickinson from 1966 to ’80. They included his scores for “What’s New Pussycat?” (1965) – generating a signature hit for singer Tom Jones – the James Bond spoof “Casino Royale” (1967) and “Arthur (1981). He also composed the Carpenters smash “Close to You” and Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin'” and “The Look of Love.”
Perhaps the apex of Bacharach’s fame came with his work on the blockbuster “Butch Cassidy,” the 1969 buddy western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film received criticism for its scene when Newman and Katharine Ross where the two are clowning around while learning to ride a bicycle and B.J. Thomas sings “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” It had literally nothing to do with the plot of the film, but audiences loved it, and so did the Oscars and Grammys. It earned Bacharach a pair of Grammy nominations (for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year) and won that Oscar.
Bacharach’s influence stretched to Broadway as well, with his collaboration with David – “Promises Promises” – running from 1968 to ’72 and earning eight Tony nominations in 1969, including Best Musical. It won two.
Earlier in his career, Bacharach worked as Marlene Dietrich’s musical director from 1958 to ’61.
He is survived by his wife Jane and three children.
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