Burt Bacharach


2007 SCL Ambassador Presentation to Burt Bacharach, excerpted from Dan Foliart and Arthur Hamilton’s introductory remarks.

From SCL President Dan Foliart:

Burt Bacharach can and has done literally everything. Burt was born in Kansas City, but only lived there a short time before he moved to New York City, where he spent most of his youth. He studied music at McGill University, the Mannes School of Music and at the New School for Social Research. His composition teachers included Henry Cowell and Darius Milhaud. These teachers must have done good work as he has been recognized for his extraordinary achievement in the arts by such universities as USC and UCLA, such organizations as the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and honored by NARAS with its New York Hero Award.

In the 1950s and early 1960s he was the pianist, arranger and conductor for Marlene Dietrich with whom he toured. The first time I became aware of Burt Bacharach was during my formative years of listening to the radio and buying records; mostly 45s. I learned to look beneath the title and see the name in parenthesis. Curiously enough when I would look at my favorite artists and songs I’ d see Gene Pitney, Only Love Can Break a Heart, True Love Never Runs Smooth, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and here were these names: Bacharach-David. Then I’d go to Bobby Vinton: Blue on Blue—Bacharach- David. Bobby Vee-Be True to Yourself,—Bacharach-David. Gene McDaniel-Tower of Strength –Bacharach-Hillard, Jack Jones, Wives and Lovers, Bacharach-David. I got to thinking, “who is this man with the last name Bacharach?”

Well, that was only the beginning, as you know. His collaboration as writer and producer soon thereafter with Dionne Warwick produced such songs as Walk on By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Anyone Who Had a Heart and I Say a Little Prayer only to mention a few. These became the classic songs of that generation. Dionne was only one of many artists who have found magic in his songs. Artists as diverse as The Beatles to Streisand, The Barenaked Ladies to Diana Krall, Twista to Herb Albert have all benefited from their association with him.

My next encounter with Burt was being one of the millions that watched those amazing specials that Smith-Hemion produced. He was nominated multiple times for an Emmy for these shows. In one of my first introductions to the process of writing film music I remember that Burt would demonstrate using the movieolla and how and he’d have to look at an Ursula Andress scene in Casino Royale (tough duty) over and over in order to write The Look of Love which he received an Oscar nomination for and then another one would show him looking at Katherine Ross and Paul Newman in scenes he was scoring for Butch Cassidy and writing Raindrops, which he won two Oscars for and I got to thinking to myself, “ so this is this man, Bacharach, and his first name is Burt.” He has continued to make wonderful specials to this day, like TNT’s Masters Series One Amazing Night, and Burt Bacharach Tribute on Ice and he has appeared as a special guest on American Idol four times. He continues an ambitious touring schedule, which includes stops in such far away locales as New Zealand, where I saw numerous posters announcing his appearance during my trip there last year at this time.

Well, I headed off to college, and for those of you who may remember the 8 Track tapes—on my drives from Oklahoma to Massachusetts I would literally melt the tape listening to the cast album of the Broadway hit, Promises, Promises and those great instrumental albums, mostly for A&M Records like Reach Out, Make it Easy on Yourself, and The Man, Burt Bacharach. Fortunately for all of us, most of this material has been re-released on more current media by Universal, as have numerous other impressive anthologies.

Just a few of Burt’s illustrious achievements in the area of film and television Music are: The five Academy Awards nominations and the three wins for Butch Cassidy and Arthur. His three golden globe awards and the seven Grammys, including the Trustees Award with Hal. His amazing scores for Arthur, Casino Royale, Night Shift and What’s New Pussycat, which also gained him an Oscar nomination. Other great movie songs like, one of my personal favorites, the April Fools, A House is Not a Home, and of course, Alfie, which he received an Oscar nomination for. That’s What Friends Are For and how he has donated all of the proceeds from the song to the American Foundation for Aids Research, which currently total $1.5 million dollars. His thought provoking and Grammy winning CD entitled, At This Time, which paired his melodies with his first time ever self-penned lyrics.

From SCL Vice-President, Arthur Hamilton:

Listening to songs has always been an important part of our lives. Hearing them work their way into our minds and hearts–and sometimes staying there forever.

We all know songs. When we hear one for the first time, sometimes we say, “that’s a good song.” Occasionally, we say, “that’s a great song.” But whenever we have heard one special kind of song for the first time, we have always been able to say, “that’s a Bacharach song.”

It’s not just the added bars in the bridge, or the extra beats in a bar–the odd shape of its structure. It’s where the melody is going, and how it gets there, that gains our complete attention. We hear it move in a direction we didn’t expect, and we say, “where the hell is it going?” And when it gets there, we know it had a mind of its own, and it took us to a new place. And, we have learned something from it.

His work has let us discover a talent of the highest order, and the wonder and mystery of it still amazes us.