Burt Bacharach, one of pop's greatest composers and a three-time Oscar winner, died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles with family at his side. He was 94.
A pianist, arranger, record producer, songwriter, conductor and all-around musical genius, Bacharach is perhaps best known for defining the sound of the '60s and '70s. His most frequent collaborator, Hal David, penned the lyrics and Bacharach composed the music, crafting a signature sound influenced by his background in jazz. Dionne Warwick, whom Bacharach discovered in 1961 when she was working as a session musician, sung their biggest hits of the decade, including "I Say a Little Prayer," "Walk on By," and "Anyone Who Had a Heart."
"Burt's transition is like losing a family member," Warwick said in the statement. "These words I've been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner."
"On the lighter side, we laughed a lot and had our run ins, but always found a way to let each other know our family, like roots, were the most important part of our relationship," added the singer. "My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him."
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 12, 1928 and raised in Queens, New York, Bacharach was encouraged by his mother, Irma, an amateur singer and pianist, to pursue music. He learned cello, drums, and piano. He studied under renowned French composer Darius Milhaud, but was equally inspired by the artists he would see when he snuck into Manhattan jazz clubs as a young man.
A six-time Grammy Award winner and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Bacharach also received six Oscar nominations across his storied career and won three Oscars: In 1970, he won Best Original Score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Best Original Song, shared with David, for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." (As performed by B. J. Thomas, the single would also reach No. 1 on the charts.)
"Two of them. I mean, it's too fantastic. Very special to me, tomorrow morning they'll be on the breakfast table of our daughter. She's only, not even four years old, but I swear she'll look at these two and she'll know how very special they are," Bacharach said onstage at the 42nd Oscars. "You made me very, very happy. I thank you. All my heart."
In 1982, Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross, and Peter Allen won Best Original Song for "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" from the film Arthur. He had previously been nominated for Best Original Song in 1966 for "What's New, Pussycat?" from What's New Pussycat, in 1967 for "Alfie" from Alfie, and in 1968 for "The Look of Love" from Casino Royale, all shared with David.
The musical maestro appeared onscreen as himself in 1997's Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery to perform "What the World Needs Now Is Love." He doubled down on the joke with a cameo in 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, performing the same number as a duet with Elvis Costello, and again in 2002's Austin Powers in Goldmember.
"On the last night of filming, Burt Bacharach performed 'What the World Needs Now Is Love' over and over, sitting at a piano on top of a double decker bus going up and down the Vegas strip," director Jay Roach told The Times. "The early takes were great, but I couldn’t bring myself to say, 'cut, move on' — it was just too sublime. We only stopped when the sun came up... That night his song became the heart of our film. Burt's love — which the world does desperately need — will live on through his music, as will our love for Burt."
Bacharach is survived by his fourth wife, Jane Hansen, and their children, Oliver and Raleigh, and son Cristopher from his marriage to Carole Bayer Sager. He's preceded in death by his late daughter, Nikki, from his marriage to Angie Dickinson.
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