20th Century Celebrity of the Week

Burt_Bacharach_1972
Burt Bacharach in 1972

Burt Bacharach, born May 12, 1928, is an American composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, and singer who has composed hundreds of popular hit songs from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many in collaboration with popular lyricist Hal David. A six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner, Bacharach’s songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 different artists. He is considered one of the most important composers of 20th-century popular music.

His music is characterised by unusual chord progressions, influenced by his background in jazz harmony, and uncommon selections of instruments for small orchestras. Most of Bacharach & David’s hits were written specifically for and performed by Dionne Warwick, but earlier associations (from 1957 to 1963) saw the composing duo work with Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Gene McDaniels, and Jerry Butler. Following the initial success of these collaborations, Bacharach went on to write hits for Gene Pitney, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Jackie DeShannon, Bobbie Gentry, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, B. J. Thomas, the Carpenters, among numerous other artists. He arranged, conducted, and produced much of his recorded output.

A significant figure in easy listening, Bacharach is described by writer William Farina as “a composer whose venerable name can be linked with just about every other prominent musical artist of his era.” In later years, his songs were newly appropriated for the soundtracks of major feature films, by which time “tributes, compilations, and revivals were to be found everywhere”.

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