Burt Bacharach Dies at 94

Oscar-winning composer penned songs for movies, Broadway, and Dionne Warwick, among other stars
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 9, 2023 10:04 AM CST
Burt Bacharach Dies at 94
Burt Bacharach attends the Newport Beach Film Festival Honors in Newport Beach, California, on April 23, 2016.   (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File)

Burt Bacharach, the singularly gifted and popular composer and Oscar winner who delighted millions with the quirky arrangements and unforgettable melodies of "Walk On By," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," and dozens of other hits, has died at 94. Bacharach died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles of natural causes, publicist Tina Brausam said Thursday, per the AP. Over the past 70 years, only Lennon-McCartney, Carole King, and a handful of others rivaled his genius for instantly catchy songs that remained performed, played, and hummed long after they were written. He had a run of top 10 hits from the 1950s into the 21st century, and his music was heard everywhere from movie soundtracks and radios to home stereo systems and iPods, whether the tune was "Alfie" and "I Say a Little Prayer" or "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "This Guy's in Love With You."

Dionne Warwick was his favorite interpreter, but Bacharach, usually in tandem with lyricist Hal David, also created prime material for Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, and many others. Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra were among the countless artists who covered his songs, with more recent performers who sung or sampled him including the White Stripes, Twista, and Ashanti. "Walk On By" alone was covered by everyone from Warwick and Isaac Hayes to the British punk band the Stranglers and Cyndi Lauper. Bacharach was both an innovator and throwback, and his career seemed to run parallel to the rock era. He grew up on jazz and classical music and had little taste for rock when he was breaking into the business in the 1950s.

His sensibility often seemed more aligned with Tin Pan Alley than with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and other writers who later emerged, but rock composers appreciated the depth of his seemingly old-fashioned sensibility. Bacharach triumphed in many art forms. He was an eight-time Grammy winner, a prize-winning Broadway composer for the musical Promises, Promises, and a three-time Oscar winner. He received two Academy Awards in 1970, for the score of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and for the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (shared with David). In 1982, he and his then-wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, won Oscars for "Best That You Can Do," the theme from Arthur. His other movie soundtracks included those for What's New Pussycat?, Alfie, and the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

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Wed four times, he formed his most lasting ties to work. He was married to first wife, Paula Stewart, from 1953-58, then to actor Angie Dickinson from 1965-81, next to Sager from 1982-1991, and finally to Jane Hansen, whom he wed in 1993. Sager once noted that Bacharach's life routines essentially stayed the same—only the wives changed. His partnership with David ended badly with the failure of a 1973 remake of Lost Horizon. Bacharach became so depressed he isolated himself in his vacation home in Del Mar, California, and refused to work. "I didn't want to write with Hal or anybody," he told the AP in 2004. Nor did he want to fulfill a commitment to record Warwick; she and David both sued him. Bacharach and David eventually reconciled. Bacharach is survived by Hansen and three children. He was preceded in death by his daughter with Dickinson, Nikki Bacharach.

(More Burt Bacharach stories.)

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