Burt Bacharach Wikipedia – All About Burt Bacharach – Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Burt Bacharach grew up in New York City’s Kew Gardens neighborhood and graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1946.
His father, Mark Bertram “Bert” Bacharach, was a well-known syndicated newspaper columnist and his mother, Irma M., was an amateur painter and songwriter who taught him piano as a child. Despite his Jewish background, Bacharach stated that religion was not a major part of his upbringing and that he felt more connected to the Catholic community in his youth.
As a teenager, Bacharach was drawn to jazz and used a fake ID to sneak into 52nd Street nightclubs and hear legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie, whose music would later influence his own songwriting.
He went on to study music at McGill University, the Mannes School of Music, and the Music Academy of the West in Montecito, California, where he learned various styles of music including jazz harmony, which became a defining element in his pop compositions.
His composition teachers included Darius Milhaud, who he cited as his biggest influence, Henry Cowell, and Bohuslav Martinů. Under Milhaud’s guidance, he wrote a “Sonatina for Violin, Oboe and Piano.”
In 1950, Burt Bacharach was drafted into the United States Army and served for two years, during which time he played piano in officers’ clubs in Germany and at Fort Dix and Governors Island. He also arranged and played music for dance bands.
It was during his time in the army that he met popular singer Vic Damone, and after his discharge, he worked as a pianist and conductor for Damone for three years.
Bacharach went on to work in similar capacities for several other singers, including Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and his first wife, Paula Stewart.
When better opportunities were scarce, he found work at resorts in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where he accompanied singers such as Joel Grey. Vic Damone praised Bacharach’s musical talent and noted his clear ideas on the musicality of songs, stating, “Burt was clearly bound to go out on his own.”
Burt Bacharach’s career as a composer and arranger took off in 1956 when he was 28 years old. This was thanks to composer Peter Matz, who recommended him to Marlene Dietrich, who was in need of a music director for her nightclub shows.
Bacharach took on the role and worked with Dietrich, a renowned actress, and singer who had achieved international fame in the 1930s, on tours worldwide until the early 1960s. During their time off the road, he wrote songs, and his collaboration with Dietrich earned him his first significant recognition as a conductor and arranger.
In 1963, Bacharach joined forces with lyricist Hal David to create one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in popular music history. His career received a major boost when singer Jerry Butler asked to record “Make It Easy on Yourself” and requested that Bacharach direct the recording sessions, marking the first time he had full control over a recording of one of his own songs.
During the early and mid-1960s, Bacharach and David wrote over a hundred songs together. In 1961, he discovered singer Dionne Warwick, and soon after wrote several songs specifically for her, leading to a hugely successful collaboration. Over the next two decades, Warwick’s recordings of Bacharach’s songs sold over 12 million copies, and she became one of the most successful female vocalists of all time, with 38 charting singles and 22 in the Top 40.
In 1965, Bacharach released his first solo album, “Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits,” on Kapp Records. Although it was largely overlooked in the US, the album rose to No. 3 on the UK charts, and his version of “Trains and Boats and Planes” became a top 5 hit. In 1967, he signed with A&M Records and recorded a mix of new material and re-arrangements of his best-known songs, staying with the label until 1978.
Surprisingly, many jazz musicians have been inspired by Bacharach’s music, despite its complexity compared to typical pop songs. Bacharach himself expressed surprise at this fact, saying “I’ve sometimes felt that my songs are restrictive for a jazz artist.” In 1968, jazz saxophonist Stan Getz released an entire album of Bacharach’s music, further solidifying his influence in the jazz genre.
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