Burt Bacharach, the massively influential composer of dozens of hits including “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and the Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” died Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94.
His publicist Tina Brausam announced his death to the Associated Press today.
Bacharach was a three-time Oscar winner with eight career Grammys, including two career honors, whose elegantly melodic compositions, arrangements and production seemed an effective and calming response in the 1960s and ’70s to ever-louder rock music and societal change. He collaborated with lyricist Hal David to provide Dionne Warwick with career-making hits in the early to mid-’60s, including the classics “Don’t Make Me Over” and Top 10 hits “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”
Bacharach amassed 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S. as a songwriter and more than 50 in the UK.
RELATED: Hollywood & Media Deaths In 2023: Photo Gallery & Obituaries
Along with delivering signature hits to such acts as The Carpenters (“Close to You”), Tom Jones (“What’s New Pussycat?”) and Dusty Springfield (“Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “The Look of Love”), Bacharach would become one of Hollywood’s most reliable music-makers for movies. Reaching as far back as the ’50s sci-fi classic The Blob — he co-wrote its memorable title tune — Bacharach would compose songs and scores for such films as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Casino Royale (1967), What’s New Pussycat? (1965), Moonraker (1979), Arthur (1981) and Night Shift (1982).
But his signature movie song came with 1969’s massively successful Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, the buddy Western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a doomed pair of outlaws on the run through America’s rapidly changing Old West. In a scene that often has been criticized as superfluous to the plot — if not the film’s popularity — Newman and co-star Katharine Ross playfully try out a newfangled invention called a bicycle, all while B.J. Thomas croons the instantly catchy and eventual Oscar winner “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
The song since has resurfaced in such films as Forrest Gump, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Clerks II and Spider-Man 2, as well as multiple TV shows. Listening to the classic track, it’s easy to notice what appear to be some struggles by the singer. Thomas actually was recovering from laryngitis when he recorded it, which gave the song its singular vocal sound.
Bacharach and David also shared an Oscar for Best Original Song for the film.
RELATED: B.J. Thomas Dies: ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ Singer & Grammy-Winning Hit Songwriter Was 78
So associated with ’60s songs and films that Bacharach himself appeared in 1997’s Mod Era-spoof Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, performing his 1965 song “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” He returned for the film’s two sequels.
Born in Kansas City, MO, and raised in Queens borough of New York City, a teenage Bacharach would use a fake ID to haunt Manhattan’s jazz nightclubs, absorbing the styles of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Studying music at Montreal’s McGill University, also serving two years in the Army in 1950. The composer met singer Vic Damone when they were both stationed in Germany. The two would collaborate even after their Army days.
Bacharach developed a growing reputation among musicians, and would soon be working with Steve Lawrence, Joel Grey and the Ames Brothers. At 28, he met Marlene Dietrich and became the arranger and conductor for actress-singer’s popular nightclub performances.
By far the most consequential event in the young composers life came in 1957, when he met lyricist Hal David at New York City’s famed Brill Building. Their partnership quickly produced their first hit: country-pop singer Marty Robbins’ “The Story of My Life,” which spent a month atop the Billboard Country chart and reached No. 15 on the Hot 100.
Although he collaborated with other lyricists in the early ’60s, the Bacharach-David partnership proved the most durable and prolific, resulting what he’d later say were more than 100 songs. They had an early hit with Jerry Butler’s “Make It Easy on Yourself” and in 1961 met their greatest muse and interpreter, Warwick. The three collaborators would score their first hit together with 1962’s “Don’t Make Me Over.”
That was just the beginning. Over the decades, but especially in the ’60s, the songwriters would provide Warwick with many, if not most, of her career-defining songs: “Walk on By”, “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Alfie,”, “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” The songs boosted Warwick to one of the most successful and hit-making female singers of the rock era.
In 1967, Bacharach composed and arranged the soundtrack of Casino Royale, including Springfield’s soon-to-be-a-standard “The Look of Love.”
Broadway beckoned as well, and in 1968 Bacharach and David wrote the musical Promises, Promises. Warwick would record and make hits of two of the musical’s songs — the title tune and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
The following year brought Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with Bacharach-David winning Oscars for the film’s score and breakout hit “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
During the following decade, after a falling-out with Warwick, Bacharach’s compositions would be recorded by Barbra Streisand, Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack and Patti LaBelle. With his eventual wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager (his second marriage, to actress Angie Dickinson, had ended in divorce), Bacharach would collaborate with Christopher Cross and Peter Allen on the Best Song Oscar-winning hit song from Arthur: “Arthur’s Theme,” better known as “Best That You Can Do.” It spent three weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
In ’85, Bacharach and Warwick mended their relationship for the hit “That’s What Friends Are For,” which won the Grammy for Song of the Year. It was his fourth career nomination in the category, spanning 22 years, and the only time he won it.
The composer’s resurgent popularity produced a string of hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, with many new artists recording versions of classic Bacharach songs like “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” (recorded by Naked Eyes) and “A House Is Not a Home” (Luther Vandross).
One of Bacharach’s most surprising collaborations came in the late 1990s, when he teamed with Elvis Costello on the hit album Painted from Memory. The album followed the successful Bacharach-Costello ballad “God Give Me Strength” from the 1996 film Grace of My Heart.
Bacharach remained busy well into the 21st Century. He wrote and arranged (with Joseph Bauer) the score for the film A Boy Called Po. He was 88, and it would be his final film score.
Bacharach and David were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972 — its bio says their songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists — and four decades later in 2012 they were the first collaborative team to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The star-studded White House tribute concert attended by President Barack Obama, who presented the awards, included Stevie Wonder singing “Alfie” along with performances by Sheryl Crow, Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Arturo Sandoval and others. David died later that year.
Bacharach is survived by wife Jane Hansen and three children. His daughter Nikki died in 2007.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.