For half a century, Burt Bacharach composed songs for Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Aretha Franklin – and for the millions of fans who still sing along.
The legendary composer – who worked on the likes of “Walk On By”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”, and “Alfie’s Theme” – died from natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Wednesday, February 8, his publicist has confirmed.
Composing hundreds of songs in the 1950s to 1980s, Burt collaborated with lyricist Hal David in many of them. He scored many movie, including “What’s New, Pussycat?”, “Alfie”, and James Bond parody “Casino Royale”.
He was an eight-time Grammy winner and won two Oscars in 1970, for the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” score and for the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. He then took home his third Oscar in 1982, with then-wife Carole Bayer Sager, in recognition of their track “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”.
He was born in Missouri but moved to New York City at a young age and was encouraged by his pianist mother to pursue music, eventually securing a place at the music conservatory at McGill University in Montreal, where he wrote his first song.
Burt was drafted into the army in the 1940s and was on active duty during the Korean War, but when officers discovered his gifts, he was sent to Germany, where he wrote orchestrations for a local recreation centre.
After his discharge, he returned to New York and attempted to start his music career, eventually touring with Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, and Polly Stewart, who became his first wife. His big break came after a friend was unable to make a Marlene Dietrich show in Las Vegas and asked him to step in, and Burt then travelled the world with her for over a decade.