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Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacharach

Biography

Even a quick glance at Rhino Records' three-CD box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection gives an overview of how wide-reaching the composer/arranger's work has been. Besides his best-known material, on Dionne Warwick's long run of supper-club soul hits ("Walk on By," "I Say a Little Prayer"), there are important, career-defining records made with the likes of Dusty Springfield, Herb Alpert, Jackie DeShannon and B.J. Thomas. Deeply influenced by Ravel and Dizzy Gillespie, Bacharach made his earliest splash as musical director for Marlene Dietrich; he kept the gig going on and off even as his star rose with Warwick and others. By 1957, he'd met lyricist Hal David, with whom he partnered for the next 15 years; in fact, most of his great songs carry the Bacharach-David tag. While pushing his muse further with film work (he wrote What's New Pussycat? for Woody Allen's first movie, which also featured "My Little Red Book" in a nightclub scene), Bacharach recorded a series of mood music albums under his own name. These were mostly instrumental, or graced with "girl" session vocalists, but occasionally the auteur would open his own pipes. Though the results were shaky, they were friendly and likable. After a troubled break with David, Bacharach scored fewer hits. His name appeared on "Arthur's Theme" by Christopher Cross, "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, and the star-studded Warwick single "That's What Friends Are For." It wasn't until the 1990s revival of interest in lounge music and similar styles, however, that his artistic profile was reassessed. Omnivorous music hound Elvis Costello teamed up with Bacharach on Painted From Memory, a dazzling 1998 album in the old style. Since then, Bacharach has continued to work, showing up on TV and in another inspired partnership, with Ron Isley on 2003's Here I Am.
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