It is with profound sadness, and an overwhelming sense of loss that we mark the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Burt Bacharach.
Whether in film, on TV or in the theatre, Burt’s melodies took us to the most unexpected places and when combined with his longtime lyricist partner, Hal David, gave us songs that spoke about life and love in a way that resonated with your soul.
Inducted as an SCL Ambassador in 2007, Burt was an inspiration to so many of us, myself included, as both an arranger and producer of some the finest recordings ever made.
As someone whose association with Burt spanned six decades, Sally Stevens has shared just a few of her treasured memories below.
Rest in peace, Burt. Your music will continue to bring joy for generations to come, and will live in our hearts forever.
The man whose songs were all about love, compassion, kindness and peace…has quietly left the building. I truly believe his music and songs were expressions of his own heart and soul. His name and legacy of work will never be forgotten, and his music will always be here surrounding us.
And he will always hold a special place in my own heart. Through the years I was privileged to work with Burt as a soloist, as a backup singer, and as a lyricist. I first met Burt in 1966 or 67, when I sang backup for one of his first west coast concerts as an artist. He and Hal David had written so many hits for dozens of others but Burt was now stepping forward as an artist himself. That first concert was in the San Diego area, and the Carpenters, just at the beginning of their own journey, were our opening act, having just recorded “Close to You” for A&M records.
I worked with Burt a year or so later on his score for Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, singing solo and group cues, most famously “South American Getaway” with the Ron Hicklin singers. And shortly after, I began to tour with Burt – Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Miami, the East Coast summer tent circuit… and eventually Canada, South America and the Philippines. Burt was, in those early days, traveling with his basic crew of section leaders, his rhythm section and singers but was performing in concert with full orchestras. I will always remember sitting in the center of those stages, blue lights shining down on us from above, wrapped in the passionate sounds of his music.
There were many evenings on the road following a performance, with Burt sitting in a booth sipping Johnny Walker Red, his favorite drink at the time. He embraced his family of musicians and singers with love and acceptance, looked out for us, always treating us with appreciation and respect. Eventually my work in town prevented me from continuing the traveling, and I had also added vocal contracting to the agenda, but I always stayed in touch. And around 1976 he had a concept for an album that was to be a sort of life’s journey from a woman’s point of view. Burt had heard my songs, and at the end of one of our concerts in South America, in a huge coliseum venue, he invited me to the piano to perform one of them. I shall never forget that moment!
So when what was eventually to become his “WOMAN” album, recorded with the Houston Symphony, he reached out to me as a lyricist. We met numerous times in the condo where he was then writing. The album eventually shifted in concept and became less thematic but included songs by all woman lyricists – Libby Titus, Carly Simon and myself… and also included orchestral pieces.
Burt remained active well into his eighth and ninth decades, touring all around the world, and never stepped away from creating – with new collaborators, for new projects, themes and artists.
And I was blessed just a few months ago, when he agreed to write a “book blurb” for my memoir, I Sang That… He wrote the most beautiful note, a full page… we didn’t want to cut any of it for the cover, so we used just a sentence or two on the book cover and included the whole note on an inside page. I still cannot believe he is gone, and more than that, I cannot believe I was blessed to have known, sung for, worked and written with this beloved gentleman. Life just does not get better than that.
– Sally Stevens