US composer Burt Bacharach dies aged 94 – DW – 02/09/2023

Oscar-winning composer Burt Bacharach died on Wednesday in his Los Angeles home, publicist Tina Brausam said on Thursday.

The author of songs such as “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” reportedly died of natural causes with his family by his side.

“He was just different,” long-time collaborator and lyricist Hal David once told an interviewer. “Innovative, original. His music spoke to me. I’d hear his melodies and I’d hear lyrics. I’d hear rhymes, I’d hear thoughts and I’d hear it almost immediately.”

Bacharach had a run of 30 top 40 hits during the ’60s, but his entire opus spans some 500 songs that have been recorded by over 1,200 different artists.

He worked with big names such as Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Tom Jones. 

Other big names such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra covered his songs while recent artists such as the White Stripes, Twista, and Ashanti have also sampled his music.

Bacharach’s life

Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1928, but moved with his family to New York where he learned to play the piano, encouraged by his mother, herself a pianist.

He later gained a spot at the music conservatory at McGill University in Montreal.

He was in the US Army from 1950 to 1952 but played piano in officers’ clubs in the US instead of being deployed to Korea.

It was his collaboration with Hal David that brought the duo big successes. He became an eight-time Grammy winner as well as winning awards for his Broadway compositions and won three Oscars — including for the score for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in 1970.

Burt Bacharach posing with the Grammy award he won for best pop instrumental album for 'At This Time' in 2006
Bacharach continued working, and winning awards, for decadesImage: Robert Galbraith/REUTERS

However, he fell out with David in 1973 over a financial dispute and the two never worked together again. The two eventually reconciled and when David died in 2012, Bacharach said of him that he wrote lyrics “like a miniature movie.”

Various US presidents, both Democrat and Republican, invited Bacharach to the White House. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama presented him with the Gershwin Prize. Obama had famously sung a few seconds of Bacharach’s song “Walk on By” during a campaign appearance.

He vowed never to retire and to keep making music in the belief that a good song can make a difference.

“Music softens the heart, makes you feel something if it’s good, brings in emotion that you might not have felt before,” Bacharach told the Associated Press in 2018.

Married four times, Bacharach is survived by his wife Jane Hansen and children Oliver, Raleigh, and Cristopher.

ab/jcg (AP, Reuters)

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