One of the greatest-ever native Missouri songwriters died yesterday, on February 8, 2023: Burt Bacharach, born on May 12, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri. It seems presumptuous to hope that the immortal pop genius, whose music I have been enjoying since I was in utero, will rest in peace any more peacefully if I pipe in to mark his passing, and everyone knows that 94 is a ripe old age indeed. Even so, it seems only right to observe that we won’t see his likes again: a songwriter who could write for so many distinctive voices and somehow make them sound more distinctively themselves without sacrificing what made his own songs, especially his collaborations with lyricist Hal David, so instantly recognizable. Despite being a fine pianist and a serviceable singer, Bacharach was a songwriter in the pure composer tradition: an artist who wrote primarily for other voices. I suppose I should mention that he studied with one of my classical-music heroines, the iconic Nadia Boulanger, especially since this blog is mostly about classical music, but Boulanger has been dead a lot longer, and I’m not likely to give up my campaign to make her a household name anytime soon. So.
Here’s a song my mom put on the family turntable often, a song I loved from the first instant I heard it. She summarized the plot of the movie Alfie for me in such a way that makes me never want to see the movie, and not because she made it sound terrible but because she made it seem more beautiful than I’m guessing it actually was, and I know that’s mostly because of the power of this song. The song tells me all I need to know, and it’s perfect.
Thank you for giving this nonbeliever something to believe in.
Please know that if I did not successfully embed this video, you can seek it out yourself on YouTube. Just look for Dionne Warwick singing “Alfie,” then go ahead and do yourself a favor and listen to all the Bacharach songs that pop up in your feed or in your subconscious memory. I’m sure if you have been sentient for longer than a half-decade, you’ll know at least a few of them by heart.
At our house it was “Promises, Promises.”
I’ll never fall in love again!
I love that one, too. He wrote so many immortal classics!
My mother loved Burt Bacharach so I grew up with him and still have a fondness for his music. His songs remind me of her. It was interesting to learn that they were about the same age but she didn’t live nearly as long.
It is also interesting when some one dies to learn who of my somewhat diverse group of friends that person had an impact on.
Thanks for the post René.
I can’t think of any contemporary songwriters who could have the kind of widespread cultural impact that he was able to have. This has a lot to do with the way we consume media now, with everything in the eternal present, available within seconds thanks to the Internet. This has led to greater balkanization of tastes, along with the loss of anything close to resembling a critical or popular consensus.
Lovely commentary. What a wonderful song. This was my favorite of all of his songs.
Thank you, Shirley.