Music World Loses a Legend as Composer Burt Bacharach Passes at 94


According to his publicist, Oscar Bacharach, a Grammy-winning composer, died Wednesday at the age 94. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Bacharach was a beloved and prolific composer. He often collaborated with Hal David, a lyricist, to write some of the greatest hits of the 1960s like “Walk on By”, “Raindrops Always Falling on my Head” (which won an Oscar in 1969 for the best song in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) and “Look of Love.”

There were many tributes Thursday, including this one by Tony Bennett.

Stephen Holden, a music and film critic, describes Bacharach’s signature style.

He was a passionate romantic who could be described as Wagnerian lounge music. His mature style combined the chromatic harmony and long, angular melodies from late-19th-century Symphonic Music with modern, bubbly Pop Orchestration and added a staccato rhythmic drive to the mix. His vibrant compositions exemplified sophisticated hedonism for a young generation that was only a few decades older than the Beatles.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, expressed his gratitude by saying,

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Burt Bacharach, one of the greatest composers of our times…. No matter with whom Burt worked, there was always a distinct ‘Bacharach sound and magic to his songs. His music touched my heart and was unique. Although I will be sad to see him go, I know that Burt’s incredible legacy will continue on in my heart forever.”

“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is a song I remember fondly. It’s catchy and it was used in one of the most outrageous sequences in film history. Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid are on their run. Usually, in movies like this, it’s tense and they fear for their lives. Instead Cassidy (Paul Newman), rides a bike and woos Etta Place (Katharine Ros) while the happy song plays.

It’s a moment that is often not expected in movies, but it works, and the film has been deemed a classic.

Bacharach is also responsible for many other famous songs. Naked Eyes’ 1983 smash hit “Always Something There To Remind Me” has always been a favorite of mine. But what I didn’t know until now was that Bacharach wrote the song in 1964 and Lou Johnson was the original singer.

Bacharach has a long list of hit songs, including those by Dusty Springfield’s Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin. He won almost every award possible, including six Grammys. In 2008, the Grammys voted him the music’s greatest living composer.

His 1967 song “I Say a Little Prayer” is my favorite. It was sung by Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. Hal Davis wrote the words about a woman who fears for her husband/boyfriend in Vietnam. (“Forever [forever] you’ll always be in my heart …”)

Both versions are beautiful, but Franklin’s version moves me just a little more.

Bacharach’s great career was the subject of his 2014 autobiography “Anyone Who Had A Heart: My Life & Music.” He felt he had been “luckier” than others.

He wrote, “Most composers are alone in a room and nobody knows their looks.” He wrote, “People may have heard some songs, but nobody gets to see them onstage or television.”

“Whether it’s a handshake, being stopped on the street to ask for an autograph, or someone commenting on a song that I’ve written,” Mr. Bacharach said. “That connection is really meaningful.

He will be greatly missed.