A songwriter and composer whose elegant melodies dominated pop radio for several decades, Burt Bacharach has died at age 94. He died of natural causes on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles, according to his publicist Tina Brausam.
Born in Missouri, Bacharach was a jazz fan who studied music in Canada and New York. He served in the Army, where he played piano at officer’s clubs and arranged music for dance bands.
After he left the army, he became bandleader and conductor for the singer Vic Damone, and then Marlene Dietrich’s band, a gig that lasted six years. He also teamed up with lyricist Hal David, a pair that worked together for decades.
He wrote hits for a host of artists, including Dionne Warwick, Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield. He crafted the soundtracks for films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Arthur, and Alfie.
His songs were a salve for tumultuous times. They were also timeless.
“What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Walk on By,” and “Alfie” were radical statements tucked within irresistible melodies and timeless arrangements, and they resonated long after they left the charts.
In 2012, President Barack Obama presented Bacharach with the Gershwin Prize for Songwriting.
A prolific songwriter and composer, Burt Bacharach won eight Grammy awards and three Oscars. His oeuvre included hundreds of hit songs and film scores, many written with Hal David, his longtime collaborator.
A debonair composer, arranger, and occasional vocalist, he was a leading figure of the 1960s, distilling that decade’s mood of romantic optimism. He was a master at marrying the classical harmonies of late-19th-century symphonic music with the bubbly orchestration of modern pop.