Who was Burt Bacharach, the legendary composer and hitmaker who has died at 94

Burt Bacharach composed – often with others – a string of hits from the 1950s onwards  ( (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Burt Bacharach composed – often with others – a string of hits from the 1950s onwards ( (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Burt Bacharach has passed away aged 94.

The Oscar-winning songwriter was responsible for some of the 20th century’s biggest hits and movie scores such as the one for the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, including the song Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. He also scored the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale and is the winner of eight Grammy Awards.

Here’s what you need to know about him

Where was he from?

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1928 and was raised in New York, where he would sneak into clubs when he was underage to catch glimpses of Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie performing in their heyday.

How did he get into music?

Bacharach enriched his love of music by exploring the work of composers like Stravinsky and Ravel, and he was trained in music at institutions in Montreal, New York and California.

After serving in the US Army, Bacharach supported himself by becoming a pianist for acts like Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers and his first wife, Paula Stewart. Burt also worked as an arranger and conductor for Marlene Dietrich during her tours across Europe in the 1950s and 1960s.

When reflecting on his beginnings, he said: “I wasn’t chasing it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was caught in the drift of things. I’m not a person who will walk over people, kill people, step on people to get to the next place where they want to be. Things just happened for me. I was very fortunate.”

When did he get his big break?

In 1957, Bacharach hit the big time after meeting lyricist Hal David at the Brill Building, a noted centre of the pop industry, in New York City. Together they created two smash hits in a row with Marty Robbins’ The Story of My Life and Magic Moments by Perry Como.

Later, they created some of the era’s most enduring hits like I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin, What’s New Pussycat?, The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield and many more.

What was he known for?

Bacharach is known for his unusual chord progressions that were influenced by jazz, which he layered over dramatic syncopated rhythm pattern and changing metres, which is popularly dubbed “easy listening”.

Who else has he worked with?


Bacharach collaborated extensively with Dionne Warwick on many of her greatest songs like Walk on By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose and Anyone Who Had a Heart and others.

They fell out when Bacharach and David left her high and dry without any new songs, prompting the Grammy winner to launch legal action against the duo. Later, Bacharach and Warwick reconciled and went on to work together on the 1985 charity single That’s What Friends Are For to fund research into HIV and AIDS.

Of their falling out, Bacharach told the Guardian in 2019 that it was “very costly and unfortunate”.

He added: “I stupidly handled it wrong."

In his later life, he defied his usual genres and got into the studio with the rapper Dr Dre, country singer Sheryl Crow and Ronald Isley, along with working on two albums with Elvis Costello.

Did he have any family?

Burt tied the knot with Paula Stewart in 1953 but they split in 1958.

Between 1965 and 1980, he was wedded to actress Angie Dickinson, with whom he had a daughter, Nikki, who died by suicide in 2007 aged 40.

His third wife was Carole Bayer Sager, a lyricist whom he worked with and adopted a son, Cristopher, during their nine-year marriage between 1982 and 1991.

He married for a fourth and final time to Jane Hansen in 1993, the mother of his son Oliver and his daughter Raleigh.