Feb 102023

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Burt Bacharach RIP

Burt Bacharach, who along with his writing partner Hal David embodied the sophisticated pop sounds of the 1960s, died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles on February 8. He was 94 years old.

It would be easier to come up with a list of musical accomplishments Bacharach didn’t achieve. He wrote the music for more than six dozen US Top 40 hits. He was nominated for four Oscars over five years, winning for 1969’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and then again with 1981’s “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).” He also won six Grammys, an Emmy, and a Tony nomination for Best Musical with 1968’s “Promises, Promises.” Preferring not to perform, he produced, arranged, and conducted many of his hits, with their trademark shifting time signatures and intricate chord progressions. It was music for adults that could be loved by young and old, no matter the song’s incarnation.

You may remember when we covered six decades’ worth of just one Bacharach song, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.” So choosing just five songs to remember everything he gave us is little more than a fool’s errand. All we can do is share this miniscule sample and hope they bring a smile to your face.

The Free Design – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (B.J. Thomas cover)

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was the smash hit on the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid soundtrack. Bacharach wrote several other instrumental tracks for the score; one of them, “South American Getaway,” features multiple male and female voices, weaving altogether, precisely arranged and conducted by Bacharach. The “Raindrops” cover by the Free Design is more reminiscent of that track, an orderly jumble of voices bobbing about even as they keep the familiar notes of the song going. Nothing’s worrying them.

Everything But The Girl – Alfie (Cilla Black cover)

Recorded early in their career, as a 1986 B-side, Everything But The Girl’s rendition of “Alfie” probably sounds just the way you expect it to, with Tracey Thorn’s rich contralto and the tasteful jazz piano. But predictable doesn’t mean dull; like an autumn country drive, it brings all sorts of new colors to the familiar, giving the song yet another shade of beauty.

Aimee Mann – What the World Needs Now (Jackie DeShannon cover)

Aimee Mann keeps it simple with her cover of “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Neither a declamation nor a call to action, the lyrics (which Hal David struggled over for two years) are mere statements here, but that’s all Mann needs to show their power. They’re as relevant today as when Jackie DeShannon sang them in 1965, or for that matter when Mann sang them in 2004.

Rumer – This Girl’s in Love With You (Herb Alpert cover)

In 2016 Rumer released This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook. It’s full of highlights, but we decided to go with the title track here, if for no reason other than it starts off with Bacharach himself making a vocal cameo. His scratchy old voice sets the stage for Rumer’s beautiful flight.

Taco – Close to You (Richard Chamberlain / The Carpenters cover)

Wait a minute – “Puttin’ on the Ritz” Taco? That’s right, and his cover came out just a couple years ago. It’s no Carpenters, but it’s certainly fun to hear he’s still got his crooning chops in order.

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  One Response to “In Memoriam: Burt Bacharach”

Comments (1)
  1. Nice! One of my favorite tribute records ever – and I’m glad this reminds me to tell you of it if you don’t have it already – is the Bacharach covers record from 1998, “Great Jewish Music.” Among other things, it helped me understand what a dark, spooky song “Walk On By” really is – and how much sunshine is contained in “Close To You.”

    Highly recommended.

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