Burt Bacharach is one of the most accomplished popular composers of the 20th Century. In the ’60s and ’70s, he was a dominant figure in pop music, responsible for a remarkable 52 Top 40 songs. In terms of musical sophistication, Bacharach’s songs differed from much of the music of the era. Bacharach compositions typically boasted memorable melodies, unconventional and shifting time signatures, and atypical chord changes. Combining elements of jazz, pop, Brazilian music and rock, Bacharach created a unique new sound that was as contemporary as it was popular. Lyricist Hal David, Bacharach’s primary collaborator, supplied Bacharach’s music with tart lyrics worthy of the best Tin Pan Alley composers. David’s unsentimental, bittersweet lyrics were often in striking contrast to Bacharach’s soaring melodies. While in the late 1970s Bacharach’s name became synonymous with elevator music (due in great part to its sheer familiarity), a closer listening suggests that his meticulously crafted, technically sophisticated compositions are anything but easy listening.
Burt Freeman Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Mo., on May 12, 1928. The son of nationally syndicated columnist Bert Bacharach, Burt moved with his family in 1932 to Kew Gardens in Queens, New York. At his mother’s insistance, he studied cello, drums and then piano beginning at the age of 12. Burt hated taking piano lessons. His dream was to play professional football, but his size--or lack thereof--kept him out of that field.