Music

Burt Bacharach: What the world needs now is a celebration of his best songs

The legendary songwriter has died at the age of 94 but his music – including timeless hits I Say A Little Prayer and What’s New Pussycat? –leaves us with many magic moments

Burt Bacharach with Dusty Springfield on the Burt Bacharach Show, 1970.

Burt Bacharach with Dusty Springfield on the Burt Bacharach Show, 1970. Photo by: ITV/Shutterstock

Burt Bacharach changed the sound of popular music. More than any composer, his brand of easy listening songs (that nevertheless dealt with heavy emotion) shifted the beat of pop.

Born in 1928, Burt Bacharach would sneak into jazz clubs in New York as a young man to listen to icons like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. The sound he soaked up there would later inspire hundreds of his own songs, including 73 top 10 hits in the USA and 52 of them in the UK. His first song, Once In A Blue Moon, was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1952. Not a bad beginning to a career that full of so any timeless classics.

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Today, the news hit that this songwriting genius has left us. His publicist Tina Brausam said Bacharach died of natural causes on Wednesday, February 8, at home in Los Angeles. He was 94. He leaves an incredible legacy of music, which has touched the lives of millions.

Burt Bacharach’s best songs

Magic Moments (1957)

Burt Bacharach first teamed up with lyricist Hal David to write this ditty that was a smash hit for Perry Como and later went on to shift loads of quality chocolate tins. Unlike said confectionary, the song is saccharine but not too sweet. An early example of Bacharach bringing a perfect melody to maximise the lyricism and mood of a song.

Baby It’s You (1964)

One bar of this song takes you right back to the early, swinging but very smooth Sixties. Maybe that time never actually existed, but The Shirelles and Bacharach’s irresistible, dreamy beats will make you believe. Some obscure band called The Beatles did an ok version too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKgkDxnG9Z8

Make It Easy On Yourself (1962)

Again written with Hal David, Make It Easy On Yourself is at once tender and tortured, encapsulating what it’s like to break up a relationship. Several artists had hits with the song, though the best-known version was released by the Walker Brothers in 1965.

Walk On By (1964)

Another heart-breaker. Dionne Warwick had a hit with it in 1963 but the most epic version that shows the versatility of the song is Isaac Hayes’ soulful and sorrowful track from his 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqR4CZj0mJQ

I Say A Little Prayer (1967)

The title alludes to religion, the spirit feels almost gospel. Wouldn’t we all want to be the person someone says this little prayer for? The acceleration of the song into the chorus is truly thrilling.

What’s New Pussycat? (1965)

Becoming a signature song for Welsh superstar Tom Jones, it starts with a swing that knocks you out straight away. On a personal note, after months/years of Covid lockdown, I was desperate to go back to live music. Tom Jones was in town. He started his set with this and immediately obliterated years of rubbishness.

Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa (1964)

Where was Gene Pitney starting if he was “only 24 hours from Tulsa”? Maybe a state or two over. Nothing makes the world seem smaller than knowing that thanks to modern transportation, you could be 24 hours from almost anywhere. Including Tulsa.

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)

There’s a lot of sadness in a lot of these songs. Regret. A desire to have another try at making things work. And Dusty Springfield makes you feel the way she feels. But the versatility of a song like this is proved when a band like White Stripes can cover it and bring a whole new dimension of desperation and anger to the tune.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (1969)

Perhaps the definitive Burt Bacharach song. It was written for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but remembered more than the rest of the movie is today. A snippet of the chorus is enough to bring images of Paul Newman munching an apple on a bicycle straight to mind.

I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1967)

Another of Burt Bacharach’s most famous songs, but key for introducing him to a new generation of teenagers after some innuendo jokes when Bacharach made a cameo appearance from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

These are just ten songs, the list could have been many times longer. Thanks for the music Mr Bacharach.

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