Monday, 22 October 2012

Burt Bacharach - no 'one hit wonder'.

The suave dude on the piano has written over seventy US hits (over fifty of which charted in the UK).

His collaborators range from the familiar (Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield) to the experimental (Elvis Costello) to the almost bizarre (Ronan Keating, and Dr Dre).

The music of Burt Bacharach is for some people, the sound of the sixties.

Even though Burt's first recorded song was written in 1952 for Nat King Cole, the list of hits produced by Bacharach (and his best known lyricist, Hal David) in the sixties is astonishing. So many of the enduring and best-loved anthems of the era are Bacharach and David compositions:

However, given that Bacharach compositions often feature unusual chord progressions and instruments not usually associated with pop music (eg the flugelhorn used on "Walk on By"), even some of the stars blessed by his songs have taken a little convincing".

Despite writing such sixties classics as "24 Hours from Tulsa", "Walk on By" and "Anyone Who had a Heart", the first Bacharach composition to reach number one in the American charts was a 1968 release featuring Herb Alpert.

When it came to chart-topping, the sixties were better for Bacharach in the UK. By the time "This Guy's in Love with You" reached the top of the US charts, Burt had already had several UK number ones (the first being "Magic Moments" for Perry Como in 1958). Bacharach songs reached number one in the UK, on five occasions.

In later decades, Bacharach and his songs have continued to take on new challenges, adapt and be adapted to new styles of arrangement and delivery. More than one has become the signature tune of its most committed performer.  Take this version of a song written in 1964.

Perhaps like Andy Williams, Burt Bacharach represents a cosier 1960s (certainly not the one of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones). Of course, there is a darker side to his work (and especially to some of his collaborations - give a listen to his 1998 album with Elvis Costello, Painted from Memory).

But this is an escapist nostalgia blog, so we'll close on a sweet and harmonious note, with one of Bacharach's most hopeful songs, performed by the artist whose career is most closely associated with his creations:

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