When Burt Bacharach, 94, died of natural causes in his Los Angeles home last week, it meant one of America’s most awarded and talented musical geniuses, a man who checked every box on the Cool Meter, had taken his final bow.
In the 1970s, my teen years, you couldn’t swing a cat around any sort of show business venue and not hit Burt Bacharach, the composer, conductor, pianist, well-groomed movie-star-handsome American showman who didn’t show off.
For more than six decades he was in the biz (“the biz” is what Hollywood types call show business, don’t you know), was part of a prolific two-man songwriting team with lyricist Hal David (who passed away in 2012, age 91), and gave you something you’re likely to hum every other day or so.
Another Burt — Reynolds — was the biggest box office movie guy around that time for a few years. Sadly, he passed away at 82 in 2018. Love Burt. Love the other Burt more, though. Bacharach was in the spotlight plenty but mainly he was in the background, on your radio, in the elevator, wherever the hits were played.
Through the 1970s he was married to Angie Dickinson, for goodness sakes, who had her legs insured for a million dollars, which was $500,000 per leg, and a hat tip to the person who sold her that policy. Can’t be too careful when you star in Police Woman on television and you’re married to Burt Bacharach. He played the piano, she had the two legs, or about eight less than the number of Emmys, Grammys, and Academy Awards her husband won.
Point of clarification: My favorite Bert of the 1970s was Jones, the quarterback of Baltimore’s Colts. NFL MVP in 1976. Ruston and all. I mean, come on. Everybody’s favorite Bert with a “e.”
But Burt Bacharach was my favorite Burt with a “u,” and to honor his passing, we offer The Top 10 Burt Bacharach Songs, According to Me. He and Hal David teamed up for literally hundreds, so Close to You and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love and What’s New Pussycat? and The Look of Love and That’s What Friends Are For won’t even make the list. It’s a shame.
10. This Guy’s in Love with You: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were a thing back then and had a monster hit with this. It was a simpler time. Lots of other artists scored hits with this too; more than 1,000 artists have recorded Bacharach songs so …
9. You’ll Never Get to Heaven if You Break My Heart: Dionne Warwick (more on her in a sec) had a hit with this but I prefer The Stylistics’ version. Warwick and The Stylistics were very good but, in all honesty, it’s a bit egotistical of them to think they get to make this call. “If you break up with me, you’re going to the bad place.” Neg. Good song though, especially for a tune about really, really high stakes dating. Maybe it wasn’t a simpler time …
8. Walk on By: “If you see me walking down the street / And I start to cry each time we meet / Walk on by, walk on by …” Bacharach wrote some happy songs; this is not one of them.
7. Say a Little Prayer for You: Warwick had hits with this and with the two songs above this one and with the two below. Warwick and Bacharach and Hal David were practically printing money for a while there in the ’70s.
6. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again: “So for at least, until tomorrow / I’ll never all in love again…”
5. Always Something There to Remind Me: Lot of co-dependency back then, apparently.
4. Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do): Christopher Cross had a hit with this song that batted leadoff in a terrific movie; quote it so much I get on my own nerves.
3. Alfie: This is on the list because Jerry Byrd sang it often in the Shreveport Journal newsroom. Sounded nothing like Dionne Warwick. Precious memories though. Bacharach said these were his favorite lyrics created by his writing partner.
2. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head: Where else would they fall? Somehow this fits into my favorite movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
1. Any Day Now: The original hit was by Chuck Jackson, then Elvis, but I prefer the cut by Ronnie Milsap. One of my favorite songs ever. By one of the best composers ever.
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