Four decades into one of songwriting's most successful careers, Burt Bacharach continues to set industry records and trends. Today, he continues to break ground in the world of pop music with Grammy Awards for such hits as "That's What Friends Are For", "On My Own" and "Best That You Can Do".
Burt Bacharach, most often in tandem with lyricist Hal David, played a major role in mainstream pop of the '60s, chalking up an incredible number of musically sophisticated hits. Bacharach compositions typically boasted memorable melodies, uncommon rhythms and striking chord changes. David's lyrics added a touch of Tin Pan Alley craft and melodrama to mainstream pop. Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Mo., on May 12, 1928. The son of syndicated columnist Bert Bacharach, Burt grew up in New York and -- at his mother's insistence -- studied cello, drums, and then piano at a very early age. His dream was to be a professional football player, but his lack of size kept him out of that field.
One of his first songs to be published was "The Night to Heaven." From 1950-52 Bacharach served in the Army, playing piano at the officer's club on Governor Island and giving concerts at Fort Dix; his performances there consisted mainly of improvisations and pop medleys of the day.
While serving as a dance band arranger in Germany, Bacharach met Vic Damone. After his discharge, Bacharach became Damone's piano accompanist. He also worked nightclubs, restaurants and accompanied performers such as Ames Brothers, Imogene Coca, Polly Bergen, Joel Grey, Georgia Gibbs, Steve Lawrence and Paula Stewart. He married Stewart in 1953 (they were divorced in 1958).
The first of Bacharach's songs to be recorded, by Patti Page, was "so awful," according to Burt, that he's forgotten the name. In 1955 he became a member of ASCAP.
In 1957, Burt teamed up with lyricist Hal David (b. May 25, 1921), whom he met at Famous Paramount Music Company, and the pair immediately had hits with Marty Robbins ("The Story of My Life," 1957) and Perry Como ("Magic Moments," 1958).
From 1958-61 Burt toured Europe and America as musical director for Marlene Dietrich. During this period, two songs were recorded: "Tower of Strength" by Gene McDaniel (with lyrics by Bob Hilliard) and "Baby It's You" by the Shirelles (lyrics by Mack David and Barney Williams). Both were recorded in 1961. "Baby It's You" was subsequently recorded by the Beatles (mid-'60s) and the duo of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe (1984).
Bacharach and David were also responsible for hits with other performers, including Jackie DeShannon ("What the World Needs Now"), the Fifth Dimension ("One Less Bell to Answer"), Bobby Vinton ("Blue on Blue"), Herb Alpert ("This Guy's in Love With You"), Jerry Butler ("Make It Easy on Yourself"), Tom Jones ("What's New, Pussycat?"), Jack Jones ("Wives and Lovers"), Dusty Springfield ("24 Hours from Tulsa"), B.J. Thomas ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head"), the Carpenters ("[They Long to Be] Close to You"), Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 ("The Look of Love") and others.