Burt Bacharach, the prolific Oscar-winning composer whose long string of hits including “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk On By” and “What The World Needs Now Is Love” made him one of the most enduring songwriters in pop history, has died at age 94, his publicist announced. Bacharach died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Feb. 8, publicist Tina Brausam said.
Often in partnership with lyricist Hal David, Bacharach penned hits covered by Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, the Carpenters, and the 5th Dimension, among many others. He was known for sophisticated melodies and orchestral arrangements that touched on jazz, Brazilian, classical, rock and R&B influences that stood out on the pop charts.
Bacharach won Oscars in 1970 both for his score for the comedy-western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and the film’s hit single “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” He and then-wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, also won Oscars for “Best That You Can Do,” the theme from “Arthur.” His other soundtrack work included “What’s New, Pussycat?,” “Alfie” and the 1967 James Bond take-off “Casino Royale.”
Bacharach appeared as himself, performing his “What The World Needs Now Is Love” in the 1997 movie “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” which spoofed the ’60s atmosphere of the early Bond films. In a statement provided to City News Service, Warwick said the loss of the composer “is like losing a family member. These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner. On the lighter side we laughed a lot and had our run-ins but always found a way to let each other know our family-like roots were the most important part of our relationship. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson shared that he was “so sad to hear about Burt Bacharach. Burt was a hero of mine and very influential on my work. He was a giant in the music business. His songs will live forever. Love & Mercy to Burt’s family.”
Bacharach was born on May 12, 1928. During his career, he penned 48 Top 100 Hits, nine No. 1 songs, and more than 500 compositions, including work for film, television and stage. His songs were also recorded by Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond, Linda Rondstadt, Gladys Knight and Elvis Costello. He is the recipient of three Oscars, two Golden Globes and eight Grammys as a writer, arranger and performer, plus the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1997 Trustees Award with David. Also with David, Bacharach received the 2012 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize recognition of their lifetime achievements in popular music.
David died in 2012 at the age of 91. In the 1990s, Bacharach underwent a resurgence in popularity, with alternative acts such as Oasis, REM, Stereolab, Faith No More, Yo La Tengo, Ben Folds Five and the White Stripes paying homage to the composer in interviews and through recordings. He also began a collaboration with Elvis Costello on a song for Allison Anders’ film “Grace of My Heart.” Working from different continents via telephone and fax machine, the pair wrote “God Give Me Strength,” a ballad that for many critics recalled Bacharach’s classic work with David and Warwick. The song was nominated for a Grammy and sparked a partnership between Costello and Bacharach that resulted in an album of new Bacharach-Costello songs. A box set, “The Songs of Bacharach & Costello,” is due out March 3. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bacharach actively toured with his band often performing with some of the top symphony orchestras in the world. Another of Bacharach’s passions when not writing or performing was horse racing. He would often be seen at various Southern Californian racetracks cheering on his horses. Bacharach was married to actress Angie Dickinson from 1965 to 1980, and to Sager from 1982 to 1991. Bacharach is survived by his wife, Jane, and children, Oliver and Raleigh; Cristopher from his previous marriage to Sager. He was preceded in death by his eldest daughter Nikki who passed away in 2007. Memorial services are pending.