Friday, June 16, 2023


Burt Bacharach
May 12, 1928 - February 8, 2023

I don't think it's entirely my fault that, even to this day, a part of me still thinks Cole Porter looks like Cary Grant, Frédéric Chopin is a ringer for Cornel Wilde, and Franz Liszt strongly resembles Dirk Bogarde. The Hollywood biopic tradition of assigning an outrageously glamorous face to the largely faceless profession of composer is a sound one. It aligns the artist with the art. And in a world of image, mythmaking, and marketing, it's a distinct branding advantage when an artist "looks" like the art they create (e.g., Hemingway, Warhol, Halston). So who can blame the movies for their insistence that the composers of romantic music also possess romantic looks?   

Which brings me to composer, arranger, songwriter, producer, pianist, and all-around legend, Burt Bacharach. 
As lyricist Sammy Cahn once famously remarked, Bacharach's atypically high professional visibility was owed to his being "the first composer who didn't look like a dentist" (the most visible pop composer I can remember as a kid was Henry Mancini, so, point made). Bacharach, who started his career in the '50s looking like a thick-necked college jock who'd accidentally stumbled into the music department on his way to the athletic field, looked nothing like his peers. But then his music didn't sound anything like theirs, either. 
Whether lushly romantic or go-go groovy, Bacharach's fiercely inventive musical style was all about where the world was headed, not where it had been. Bacharach's appearance, natural charisma, and virtuoso talent as a pianist (his thin, uniquely inflective voice sealed the deal) led him to an unexpected performing career. By the '70s—via concerts, albums, TV specials, and a seemingly unbroken chain of hits sung by Dionne Warwick—Burt had become a global household name and distinguished himself as the marketable face of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songwriting team. 
Wed to glamorous movie star Angie Dickinson in 1965 (the illusion of their marriage immortalized in those iconic Martini & Rossi ads), Burt, as the tan, blow-dried, turtlenecked embodiment of California hip, came to look exactly like his music sounded: laid-back, sophisticated, sexy, and smooth.
Ken's Top 10
Casino Royale
Are You There With Another Girl?
Close To You
Walk On By
Anyone Who Had a Heart
Promises, Promises
Something Big
Message To Michael

Though I'd grown up hearing Burt Bacharach's songs on the radio for years without knowing it, my first real awareness of him was when I was ten years old and fell in love with his score for the chaotic James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967). In all these years, it has never been surpassed as my favorite movie soundtrack album of all time. 
I've been a devoted (some might say obsessive) Burt Bacharach fan ever since. Given the many years and blissful hours I've spent surrounded by his fabulous library of songs--dancing to them, dreaming to them, crying to them;  it's not an overstatement to say the music of Bacharach/David has been the soundtrack of my youth.
Billboard Magazine -April 19, 1967
So, in keeping with the soundtrack emphasis…
Since there's already so much out there about Bacharach's radio and album hits, my cinephile tribute to the late-great Burt Bacharach--3-time Oscar-winner, six-time Grammy-winner, 1972 inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and #32 in Rolling Stone's 2015 Top 100 Greatest Composers of All Time list—is to comprehensively highlight all the music and songs he wrote specifically for the movie screen.

What's New, Pussycat? -  1965 - Bacharach/David
Bacharach's first film score (thanks to Angie Dickinson) brought him his first Best Song Oscar nomination. Tom Jones sings "What's New, Pussycat"  to a fare-thee-well over the opening credits, but the song lost to "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper. I love the loony, loopy tone of this album, which bursts with musical variety. My favorite cuts are the title song, the propulsive "My Little Red Book," and the perfectly lovely romantic ballad"Here I Am." 

After The Fox - 1966 - Bacharach/David
The fox followed the pussycat with Bacharach's 2nd film score. I've always loved the deliciously silly call-response title song that has UK rock band The Hollies (when Graham Nash was still a member) interrogating Peter Sellers (in character as bumbling criminal mastermind, The Fox).
Casino Royale - 1967 - Bacharach/David
The sultry "The Look of Love" was nominated for Best Song but lost to "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle. (WTF?) The score was Grammy nominated for Best Score, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Instrumental Theme. I love EVERYTHING about this very '60s-sounding album, but my top faves are Herb Alpert's flawless rendition of the title tune,  and "Home James, Don't Spare the Horses."
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid  -  1969 - Bacharach/David
Burt and Hal David won their first Best Song Oscar for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," sung by B. J. Thomas over that iconic bicycle riding scene. Burt alone won a second Oscar that night for Best Original Score. Burt's score also won the Grammy that year, and "Raindrops" was nominated (but lost) in the Best Contemporary Song & Song of the Year categories. I don't much care for this movie, but the score is a knockout, and B. J. Thomas' distinctive vocals really make "Raindrops" an unforgettable classic for me. 

Lost Horizon - 1973 - Bacharach/David
The movie responsible for busting up (temporarily, anyway) longtime collaborators Burt Bacharach and Hal David. You can read my thoughts on this famous flop favorite of mine here: Lost Horizon.

Together? (Amo Non Amo) - 1979 - Bacharach/Anka
When this Italian film was known as  Amo non Amo, it had a score by the progressive rock band Goblin. When it hit these shores with the new title Together? it acquired a new score from Bacharach and Paul Anka. Bacharach's first non-Hal David score is full of pretty melodies assigned banal, sound-alike lyrics sung by Jackie DeShannon, Libby Titus, and the ever-muffled Michael McDonald. The soundtrack album was a staple in remainder bins for years, but I don't remember the film's release at all, only seeing it for the first time while researching this tribute. Directed by a woman (Armenia Balducci), this intimate relationship drama gave Jacqueline Bisset one of her better roles. 
Arthur - 1981 - Bacharach/Sager/Cross/Allen
Bacharach won his third Academy Award for "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)," a song written by four people, and sung by Christopher Cross over the closing credits. If this Best Song Oscar-winner and Song of the Year Grammy nominee appears elsewhere in the film, I'll never know, because when it comes to watching Arthur, one is my limit.  And perhaps it proves I'm not a full-tilt Bacharach maniac when I say this song has never done a thing for me. Its popularity baffled me even in 1981. Bacharach composed the film's instrumental score (by himself, I should add), which features a few songs co-written with Carol Bayer Sager...Bacharach wife number three (of four). 

Night Shift - 1982 - Bacharach/Sager/Ross
I'm not trying to be perverse or contrary when I say that I like everything about Bacharach's score to this negligible comedy except the song that went on to great fame as a 1985 Song of the Year Grammy nominee and the anthem of AmFAR (American Federation of AIDS research). I speak of "That's What Friends Are For," which was first heard croaked by Rod Stewart over this film's end credits. 

Arthur 2: On the Rocks - 1988 - Bacharach/Sager/De Burgh

Love Hurts  -  1990 - Bacharach
I never heard of this movie before (it was released overseas but went the straight-to-video route in the U.S.). Bacharach contributed no songs to the score, but I understand his instrumental tracks are sprinkled sparsely throughout the film.   

Isn't She Great - 2000 - Bacharach/David

A Boy Called Po - 2017 - Bacharach
His first complete film score in 17 years, Bacharach dedicated this movie about autism to his daughter Nikki, who struggled all her life with issues related to her undiagnosed autism and committed suicide in 2007 at age 41. An obvious labor of love, Bacharach donated his talents to the project, played the piano himself on the score, and even secured the licensing rights to "Close To You" for director Joseph Bauer for just $400. Bacharach also composed a song with Billy Mann, "Dancing With Your Shadow," that can be heard sung by Sheryl Crow over the closing credits.

DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK (1956) - "I Cry More" - Alan Dale
                 LIZZIE (1957) - "Warm and Tender" - Johnny Mathis

THE SAD SACK (1957) - "Sad Sack" - Jerry Lewis     
COUNTRY MUSIC HOLIDAY (1958) - "Country Music Holiday" - Bernie Nee 

THE BLOB (1958)  - "The Blob" - The Five Blobs (Bernie Knee)
JUKE BOX RHYTHM (1959) - "Make Room for the Joy" - Jack Jones
For years I watched the Steve McQueen, Helen Krump (Aneta Corsaut) sci-fi horror flick The Blob without knowing its comically ill-matched, uptempo mambo theme song was composed by Bacharach/David. An entertainingly amusing tune that perhaps takes itself no more seriously than the film it introduces.  
LOVE IN A GOLDFISH BOWL (1961) - "Love in a Goldfish Bowl" - Tommy Sands     
RING-A-DING RHYTHM (1962) - "Another Tear Falls" - Gene Daniels

FOREVER MY LOVE (1962) - "Forever My Love" - Jane Morgan
WONDERFUL TO BE YOUNG (1962) - "It's Wonderful to Be Young" - Cliff Richard

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME (1964) - "A House is Not a Home" - Brooke Benton
SEND ME NO FLOWERS (1964) - "Send Me No Flowers" - Doris Day
Bacharach's gift for haunting melodies and talent for having his songs take delightfully unexpected turns is exemplified by these two title songs, which are huge favorites of mine. If the jaunty Doris Day tune is an ideal fit for a feather-light romantic comedy, the plaintively beautiful song Burt composed for a movie about a whorehouse is an overly-charitable grace note with a capital "G."

ALFIE (1966) - "Alfie" - Cilla Black / Cher 
Bacharach didn't write the film's score, but the Bacharach/David composition "Alfie" (sung by Cilla Black in the UK version/Cher in US releases) was nominated for Best Song... losing to the lamentable "Born Free." Bacharach always cites this as his favorite of all his songs. It's undoubtedly one of mine.

MADE IN PARIS (1966) - "Made in Paris" - Trini Lopez  
PROMISE HER ANYTHING (1966) - "Promise Her Anything" - Tom Jones
A welcome change from all those romantic ballads are these two frug-friendly title songs that fairly burst with '60s à go-go élan. It's delectable, dance-tempo ear candy from Mr. Groovy himself.  

THE APRIL FOOLS (1969) - "April Fools" - Dionne Warwick           
LONG AGO, TOMORROW (1971) - "Long Ago, Tomorrow" - B.J. Thomas
I've always loved the lilting quality of the beautiful song, "April Fools" (which plays during a montage sequence and again under the closing credits). It's one of Bacharach/David's most lushly romantic compositions. Though the score for The April Fools was composed by Marvin Hamlish, another Bacharach song- "I Say a Little Prayer for You," pops up during a party scene. 

SOMETHING BIG (1971) - "something big" - Mark Lindsay          
MIDDLE AGE CRAZY (1980) - "Where Did The Time Go" - The Pointer Sisters
Because I have no memory of ever hearing the song "something big" on the radio in 1971 (although I do recall The Goldddigers [of all people] performing it on The Dean Martin Show) I don't think it was much of a hit. But it remains one of my favorite underappreciated Bacharach compositions. It's so quintessentially Bacharach--quirky, jazzy, laid-back, and catchy as hell. 

MAKING LOVE (1982) - "Making Love" - Roberta Flack         
ROMANTIC COMEDY (1983) - "Maybe" - Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson

TOUGH GUYS (1986) - "They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To" - Kenny Rogers    
BABY BOOM (1987) - "Ever Changing Times" - Siedah Garrett

GRACE OF MY HEART (1996) - "God Give Me Strength" -  Kristen Vigard       
STUART LITTLE (1999) - "Walking Tall" - Lyle Lovett
Bacharach's collaborations with Elvis Costello produced some of his best music in years. The impassioned "God Give Me Strength" deserved a little Oscar notice. Bacharach teamed with longtime Andrew Llyod Webber lyricist Tim  Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita) for one of my favorite late-career Bacharach melodies, a jazz-lilt theme about a little white mouse. 

ACADEMY AWARD TALLY     6 nominations /  3 Wins
What's New Pussycat (1965)     Best Song nominee 
            Alfie (1966 )                     Best Song nominee   
Casino Royale  (1967)                 Best Song nominee   
               Butch Cassidy  (1969)      WON Best Song & Best Original Score 
       Arthur (1981)                 WON    Best Song         

A song written to publicize a movie on the radio but is not in the film   
The Desperate Hours - 1955  -  Bacharach/ Wilson Stone
Song: The Desperate Hours   Sung by:  Eileen Rodgers

Hot Spell - 1958  -  Bacharach/Mack David
Song: Hot Spell       Sung by:  Margaret Whiting 
Sophia: "There’s a hurricane a-comin’!”
Dorothy: “ ‘A-comin’?” 
Sophia: “That’s right. People only use the 'a' when a really bad storm is a-comin' or a-brewin.’”

The above exchange from The Golden Girls partially explains why Miss Whiting reverts to dialect --"All that's a-comin' is a hot spell!"   -- during the refrain of this enjoyable, western-trot anthem to lustful longing. 

The Hangman - 1959  -  Bacharach/David
Song: The Hangman        Sung by:  John Ashley 

The Man in the Net - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  The Net       Sung by:  John Ashley
Actor John Ashley has long been a familiar face to me from those Annette & Frankie Beach Party movies. I had no idea he had a career as a pop singer and introduced TWO (not particularly distinguished) Bacharach/David songs.
That Kind of Woman - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  That Kind of Woman                Sung by: Joe Williams
Suddenly, Last Summer - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  Long Ago, Last Summer      Sung by: Diane Trask

Who's Got the Action? - 1962 - Bacharach/Bob Hilliard
Song: Who's Got The Action?   Sung by: Phil Colbert

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - 1962  - Bacharach/David
Song:  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance   Sung by: Gene Pitney
Okay, is this catchy, Western-pop narrative tune not THE best exploitation song ever? It sparked my interest enough to get me to sit through this gunslinger soap. I was very disappointed that the song never turned up in the movie.

Wives & Lovers  - 1963 - Bacharach/David
Song:  Wives and Lovers   Sung by: Jack Jones
Bacharach's music is so good on this song that it almost makes you forget the cringingly sexist lyrics. Putting the words in a woman's mouth (as with Warwick's sublime version) softens the eye-rolling a bit, but Bacharach's full instrumental version is primo Bacharach. 

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? - 1963 - Bacharach/David
Song: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?     Sung by: Linda Scott

The Fool Killer - 1965 - Bacharach/David
Song: Fool Killer       Sung by: Gene Pitney 

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial  - 1982 - Bacharach/Neil Diamond/ Carol Bayer Sager
Song: Heartlight     Sung by: Neil Diamond 
As this was written more than a month after the Steven Spielberg film was released, it's more a tribute song than an exploitation one. But that's not how Universal Studios saw it. They sued the trio for $25,000. Something Bacharach in his 2013 memoir Anyone Who Had a Heart claimed to still irk him many years later. 

The Austin Powers trilogy of spy spoofs introduced Burt Bacharach and his music to a new generation. (Casino Royale's "Look of Love" inspired its creator Mike Myers). Bacharach made cameo appearances in each film.
Singing the 1965 song "What the World Needs Now Is Love" 

Elvis Costello sings 1969's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" 

Singing 1965's "What the World Needs Now Is Love"

"Nikki" - 1966 - Bacharach/David
Neither an exploitation song nor a melody written exclusively for a motion picture, but as a Boomer, I'd be remiss if I failed to include this seminal '70s anthem in this comprehensive record of Bacharach's film legacy. Composed in 1966 in honor of the birth of daughter [with 2nd wife Angie Dickinson] Lea Nikki Bacharach (1966 - 2007), "Nikki" was repurposed and immortalized in 1969 when this gentle melody was given a robust orchestral arrangement and became the theme for The ABC Movie of the Week for the next five years. (A rare, off-his-game Hal David contributed some forgettable lyrics that have happily remained so.)

For all the individual achievement reflected by Burt Bacharach's fitting dominance in this tribute, I must make clear that as far as I'm concerned, there IS no Burt Bacharach without lyricist Hal David (May 25, 1921 – Sept. 1, 2012). And (in my life, at least) there would be NO Bacharach/David without Dionne Warwick. Having the opportunity to see her perform last year and hear her singing songs born of this genius trio's longtime collaboration was one of the premier experiences of my life. 

This tribute to Burt Bacharach's contribution to cinema wouldn't be possible without Serene Dominic's invaluable reference - "Burt Bacharach: Song By Song." Published in 2003, I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book to any Bacharach fans.
The Composer as Pop Star
Photographer Jim McCrary (who shot the iconic cover of Carol King's Tapestry album)
took this photo for Burt's 1971 self-titled LP for A&M Records. 

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2023