Legendary American pop composer, songwriter and pianist Burt Bacharach, whose prolific output provided a chart-topping playlist for the 1960s and 1970s with hits like “I Say a Little Prayer,” has died in Los Angeles at the age of 94.
Bacharach worked with a constellation of stars during his decades-long career, from Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin to Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones. He toured with Marlene Dietrich and collaborated with the White Stripes.
Bacharach — who died Wednesday of natural causes at his home, his publicist Tina Brausman told AFP — was known for romantic, melancholic ballads that blurred the line between jazz and pop, and regularly won over fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
He earned a flurry of accolades: three Oscars including for the score of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” an Emmy, eight Grammy awards including a lifetime achievement prize, two Golden Globes and induction in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The list of hits is long: “Walk On By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” are only a few of the best known. He penned nearly 50 Top 100 hits and nine songs that went to number one on the charts.
Bacharach enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with Dionne Warwick, including on the 1985 power collaboration “That’s What Friends Are For,” a cover of a song first co-written in 1982 with Carole Bayer Sager, who was one of his four wives along with actress Angie Dickinson.
“Keep smilin’, keep shinin’ // Knowing you can always count on me for sure // That’s what friends are for,” said the lyrics, which brought Warwick together with Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight for a fundraiser to combat the AIDS epidemic.
Tributes poured in from across the showbiz spectrum — everyone from KISS frontman Paul Stanley to Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson offered condolences and praise for his signature optimism and effortless orchestrations.
“A titan of beautiful and effortless song,” Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan wrote on Twitter.
– Arranger, singer, writer –
A pianist passionate about jazz, Bacharach was born on May 12, 1928 in Kansas City, Missouri, but moved to New York in his early years. As a teenager, he snuck into clubs to hear the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
He studied music theory and composition at several American universities, before serving in the US Army in the post-World War II era.
Before long, he embarked on tour with a variety of singers, and was eventually hired by Dietrich as an arranger and musical director for her tours.
In 1957, he met lyricist Hal David, who died in 2012, with whom he would form one of the most successful partnerships in the music industry.
A few years later at a recording session with the Drifters, they would discover a young backup singer who would become their standard bearer: Warwick.
Between 1962 and 1968, they wrote 20 titles for Warwick that rose into the…