Saturday, February 11, 2023

Burt Bacharach, 1928-2023, "What the World Needs Now is Love"

Burt Bacharach, who died on Wednesday, had a peripatetic life. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, spent his teenage years in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, began his formal musical education at McGill University in Montreal, then continued it in New York and California. He was "classically trained," with teachers who included composers Darius MilhaudHenry Cowell, and Bohuslav Martinů. He considered Milhaud, who was influenced by jazz and by Brazilian music, and who, according to Bacharach's NPR obituary encouraged him "to follow the kind of music he felt compelled to write," to have been his greatest influence. When he was 28 he got an early career boost when he became arranger and conductor for shows by Marlene Dietrich, and "traveled the world with her for over a decade."

The clip above shows Bacharach at the White House during a 2012 tribute to him and to his lyricist partner Hal David, who was unable to attend, and died later that year. He gives a spoken entry and sings the opening verse of "What the World Needs Now Is Love," which he then accompanies on piano while it is sung by Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow, Michael Feinstein, Mike Myers, Lyle Lovett, Rumer, Sheléa, and Arturo Sandoval.

A myriad of singers have sung and recorded songs by Bacharach and David. A particular exponent of their works during the 1960s and '70s was Dionne Warwick. In the clip above (audio with a montage of photos) she sings "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (1964). Again from the NPR obituary, she rebutted the notion that Bacharach's compositions were "simple" by noting that song has frequent time signature changes.