Burt Bacharach Biography

(One of the Most Influential Composers of Pop Music in the 20th Century)

Birthday: May 12, 1928 (Taurus)

Born In: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Burt Freeman Bacharach was a legendary American composer, songwriter, singer, pianist, and record producer. He earned six Grammy Awards and three Oscars for some of his remarkable musical pursuits like ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head’. Distinctive nature of music of this seasoned composer is marked with atypical chord progressions influential of his jazz harmony background and the striking and unique way he chooses instruments for small orchestras. Counted among greatest composers of the 20th century popular music, Bacharach composed and wrote many of his hits during his long-time collaboration with lyricist Hal David. This duo became first song-writing team to win Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2012. Many of their hits were sung by Dionne Warwick among other artists. As a songwriter 73 of his songs found place in the US Top 40 list and 52 in the UK Top 40 list as of 2014. His collaborative efforts as composer/songwriter that topped Billboard Hot 100 include ‘On My Own’, ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head’ and ‘The Look of Love’. A noted figure of ‘easy listening’, Bacharach also strongly influenced chamber pop and Shibuya-kei.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Burt Freeman Bacharach

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: Angie Dickinson, Carole Bayer Sager

father: Bertram M. Bacharach

mother: Irma M. Bacharach

children: Cristopher Bacharach, Lea Nikki Bacharach, Oliver Bacharach, Raleigh Bacharach

Born Country: United States

Composers Record Producers

Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Males

Died on: February 8, 2023

place of death: Los Angeles

Notable Alumni: Music Academy Of The West

Ancestry: German American

City: Kansas City, Missouri

U.S. State: Missouri

More Facts

education: Music Academy Of The West

Childhood & Early Life

Burt Bacharach was born on May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, US in the Jewish family of reputed syndicated newspaper columnist Mark Bertram "Bert" Bacharach and amateur painter and songwriter Irma M. (née Freeman). He was raised in Forest Hills, Queens.

His mother made him learn the piano as a child; however after attaining teenage he developed interest in jazz. He attended Forest Hills High School and graduated in 1946. He often visited the 52nd Street nightclubs using fake ID and listened to bebop musicians like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. Their style would later impact his work as song-writer.

He earned Bachelor of Music degree from Montreal's McGill University in 1948 and also studied music from Music Academy of the West and Mannes School of Music. At one point he came under tutelage of Darius Milhaud who he considers his biggest influence. He penned down a ‘Sonatina for Violin, Oboe and Piano’ under guidance of Milhaud.

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Burt Bacharach had a stint with the US Army following which he remained associated with famous American singer Vic Damone as a pianist and conductor for three years. He also played same role for other singers like the Ames Brothers, Polly Bergen and Paula Stewart (later his first wife). At times he would also work with singers like Joel Grey at resorts in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

He rose to prominence while working as arranger and conductor of nightclub shows of the Lola-Lola famed German-American movie star and vocalist Marlene Dietrich. He was recommended to the diva by composer Peter Matz in 1956. He intermittently toured worldwide with Dietrich till the early 1960s and also worked as her part-time music director. Their association of around five years ended when Bacharach expressed his wish to concentrate full-time on song-writing.

He met lyricist Hal David at the Brill Building in New York City in 1957 that initiated a writing endeavour between them. Their big break came that year with the song ‘The Story of My Life’ written by them and sung by US country singer Marty Robbins. The song peaked atop the US country chart for four weeks and ranked #15 in the Billboard Top 100 chart.

British crooner Michael Holliday recorded a cover version of ‘The Story of My Life’ that climbed atop the UK Singles Chart in February 1958. The song was replaced by yet another song written by Bacharach and David with music by the former titled ‘Magic Moments’ and recorded by Perry Como in 1957 for RCA Records. With such feat Bacharach and David became the first lyricists to spawn two consecutive chart topping UK singles.

He discovered Dionne Warwick in 1961 (who later became famous singer, actress and television show host). At that time she was working as a session accompanist. Her professional recording debut happened in 1962 with the hit song ‘Don't Make Me Over’ written and produced by Bacharach and David.

Bacharach’s first opportunity to execute overall recording process of one of his own songs came when singer Jerry Butler assigned him to record ‘Make it Easy on Yourself’ written by him and David. The song released in 1962 and became quite popular.

The continuing success of their early collaborative efforts led Bacharach and David to get into a writing partnership in 1963.

In the ensuing years Bacharach and David spawned several songs particularly for Warwick to perform which emerged as popular hits. Some of them include ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ (1964), ‘Walk On By’ (1964), ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ (1967) and ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’ (1968).

Meanwhile in 1965, Burt Bacharach's debut solo album ‘Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits’ released through Kapp Records label. It failed to garner much attention in the US, however climbed at #3 on the UK album charts. His later albums include ‘Woman’ (1979) and ‘At This Time’ (2005). The latter won him the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2006.

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He signed with A&M Records as an artist in 1967 and recorded both new stuffs and re-arrangements of his popular songs for them till 1978.

With time he bolstered his presence by writing hits for several artists like the Carpenters, Tom Jones, B. J. Thomas, Dusty Springfield and Gene Pitney. He would produce, arrange and conduct most of his recorded output.

Over the years he gave music for many films like ‘After the Fox’ (1966), ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Lost Horizon’ (1973). Poor performance of ‘Lost Horizon’, the songs of which were written by Bacharach and David, resulted in a rift between the two leading to termination of their years-long thriving partnership. They briefly reunited in 1975 and wrote and produced some records.

Meanwhile, Burt Bacharach won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album in 1969 for his work on the 1968 musical ‘Promises, Promises’. Bacharach and David wrote and produced the song ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head’ for the American Western film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969). The song fetched the duo Academy Awards and a Grammy award.

He shared the Academy Award for Best Original Song along with Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen for co-writing ‘Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)’, from the blockbuster hit 1981 American comedy film ‘Arthur’. He married Carole the following year and co-wrote some hits with her including ‘Making Love’ (1982), ‘Heartlight’ (1982) and ‘On My Own’ (1986).

The 1985 cover version of the song ‘That's What Friends Are For’ written by Bacharach and Carole and performed by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1986.

He collaborated with Elvis Costello and released album ‘Painted from Memory’ through Mercury Records on September 29, 1998. Its tracks ‘I Still Have That Other Girl’ earned the two a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals’ that year.

He made several on-screen appearances including in television shows like ‘The Merv Griffin Show’, ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’; in television commercials including for Martini & Rossi beverages; and in all the three Austin Powers films (1997, 1999, 2002).

An honorary Doctorate of Music was conferred to him by Berklee College of Music in 2009.

Family & Personal Life

Burt Bacharach married four times. The first one was with American actress Paula Stewart from December 22, 1953 to 1958.

He then married American actress Angie Dickinson on May 15, 1965, which ended in divorce on August 4, 1981. Their daughter Nikki who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome committed suicide at age 40 in 2007.
He was then married to American lyricist, singer-songwriter, painter and author Carole Bayer Sager from April 3, 1982 to July 11, 1991. They adopted a son Christopher.

Burt Bacharach married Jane Hansen in 1993. He had a son, Oliver, and a daughter Raleigh, from his fourth marriage.

He published an autobiography ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ in 2013.

Burt Bacharach died on February 8, 2023, at his home in Los Angeles.


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1982 Best Music, Original Song Arthur (1981)
1970 Best Music, Original Song Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
1970 Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Golden Globe Awards
1982 Best Original Song - Motion Picture Arthur (1981)
1970 Best Original Score Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1971 Outstanding Single Program - Variety or Musical - Variety and Popular Music Singer Presents Burt Bacharach (1971)
Grammy Awards
2008 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
2006 Best Pop Instrumental Album Winner
1999 Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Winner
1997 Trustees Awards Winner
1987 Song of the Year Winner
1970 Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
1970 Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album Winner
1968 Best Instrumental Arrangement Winner
ASCAP Film And Television Music Awards
1991 Most Performed Feature Film Standards Arthur (1981)
1988 Most Performed Feature Film Standards Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
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