Back to Bacharach

By on August 30, 2012
It is impossible to talk about pop music without mentioning Burt Bacharach whose timeless songbook has captured the hearts of many.
The landscape of popular music was shaped significantly by the New York-raised composer extraordinaire’s uncanny knack for penning ground-breaking tunes so effortlessly – songs that were sophisticated yet catchy, lyrically sentimental yet melodically soaring; and would not only top the charts but also be woven firmly into the fabric of popular culture for decades to come.

The most revered of Bacharach’s work, however, were his collaborations with lyricist Hal David, for whom the former would compose the music: the union which birthed such classics as “Alfie”, “Walk on By”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, and “The Look of Love”, to name but a few, all of which were made popular by Bacharach’s golden-voiced protégé and longtime collaborator Dionne Warwick in the ‘60s.

The songwriter scored further hits with other legendary crooners giving their own spin on the Bacharach songbook, a roster that includes such names as The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, and Cher. Bacharach has also traversed the pop music sphere and forayed into the world of cinema and theatre as well, where he has also become a mainstay, having composed and arranged soundtracks to Peter Sellers’ 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale, the
Paul Newman / Robert Redford western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the theme to the Dudley Moore comedy Arthur, co-written with singer Christopher Cross, for which he was awarded an Oscar.
Given his outstanding achievements and legendary musical instincts, one might assume Bacharach always had music in his veins – but he would disagree. “I don’t think it was in my blood to be a songwriter,” Bacharach reveals in a 2006 interview with “My mother made me take piano lessons, which I never wanted to do.”

“[I] went along with her wishes … and I didn’t really have a lot of ambition in life. You might say I floated and let things happen to me.”

In his teenage years, however, the young musician discovered jazz and bebop, with which he fell in love. In the years that followed, Bacharach studied music theory and composition in university and went on to play piano while serving in the Army, where he met crooner Vic Damone. Following his discharge, Bacharach toured with Damone and played odd gigs around New York, only to soon be introduced to Hal David at New York’s Brill Building. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the 84-year-old Burt Bacharach is still going strong. In the past year, he has worked with screenwriter Steven Sater on his first musical Some Lovers which premiered last November in New York City. The Library of Congress also awarded both him and Hal David the coveted Gershwin Prize, a first for a songwriting team.

This month, Bacharach is back in Tokyo to give his audience a dose of “what the world needs now”: love – in the form of the composer’s decade-spanning array of masterpieces that contemplate love, life, and the world – for a spectacular show at Tokyo Midtown’s Billboard Live and at the Tokyo International Forum.


The Tokyo Jazz Festival presents Burt Bacharach
3:10pm, September 8
Tokyo International Forum, Hall A
Tel: (03) 5777-8600

An Evening with Burt Bacharach
7 & 9:30 PM, September 10-11
Billboard Live Tokyo
Tel: (03) 3405-1133

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