By Jamie Gangel and Brandon Griggs, CNN
Updated 1:26 PM EST, Thu February 9, 2023
American composer, songwriter, singer and pianist Burt Bacharach performs on his piano circa 1968 in Los Angeles, California.
Burt Bacharach, the acclaimed composer and songwriter behind dozens of mellow pop hits from the 1950s to the 1980s, including “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and the theme from the movie “Arthur,” has died, a family member of Bacharach confirmed to CNN.
He was 94.
A major figure in 20th century pop music, Bacharach scored major hits in a variety of genres, from Top 40 to country to rhythm and blues and film scores. He wrote hit songs for a wide range of artists, including Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, the Carpenters and Christopher Cross.
Many of his songs were classified, perhaps unfairly, as “easy listening” – a gentle, old fashioned style of music with few rough edges. Most were far removed from the sounds of rock and roll, funk, disco or other popular genres of his time.
Composer Burt Bacharach in 1979.
And yet Bacharach, with longtime collaborator Hal David, churned out many of the catchiest songs of the era. Many of them – “Say a Little Prayer,” “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” – became hits for Warwick, one of the biggest-selling female vocalists of the 1960s.
Bacharach also wrote such massive hits as Perry Como’s “Magic Moments,” the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You,” Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?”, Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now is Love,” Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love With You,” Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight” and the Patti Labelle-Michael McDonald duet “On My Own.”
One of his biggest and most impactful hits was “That’s What Friends Are For,” the charity collaboration between Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder that topped the charts in 1986 and raised millions for AIDS research.
Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick in 1971.
“Never be afraid of something that you can whistle,” Bacharach told NPR’s Scott Simon in 2013.
Over his long career Bacharach earned almost every major award in music, including six Grammys, three Oscars and – with Hal David – the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded by the Library of Congress. In 2008 the Grammys proclaimed him music’s greatest living composer.
“Burt’s transition is like losing a family member,” Warwick said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. “These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my Dear Friend and my Musical Partner. On the lighter side we laughed a lot and had our run ins but always found a way to let each other know our family like roots were the most important part of our relationship. My heartfelt condolences goes out to his family letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”
British musician Thomas Burgess also paid tribute.
“One of the greatest songwriting legacies in the history of ever,” Burgess wrote. “Farewell Burt Bacharach, you were a king.”
Susanna Hoffs, singer and co-founder of The Bangles, tweeted a photo of Bacharach, writing, “Peace and love, Burt Bacharach.”
Some of his biggest hits were written for movies.
Burt Bacharach in 1972.
Bacharach and Dionne Warwick record a song in London in 1964. Many of Bacharach's songs — "Say a Little Prayer," "Walk on By," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" — became hits for Warwick, one of the biggest-selling female vocalists of the 1960s.
Bacharach and actress-singer Marlene Dietrich arrive for the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 1965.
Bacharach and his second wife, actress Angie Dickinson, are seen during their honeymoon in Italy in 1965.
Bacharach appears on TV with the Breakaways in 1965.
Bacharach and Dickinson take home their baby daughter Nikki in 1966.
Bacharach plays the piano at the first rehearsal of his first Broadway musical, "Promises, Promises" in 1968. Joining Bacharach, from left, are actors Jerry Orbach and Jill O'Hara, director Robert Moore, author Neil Simon, producer David Merrick and actor Edward Winter.
Bacharach hugs Warwick at a hotel in New York in 1968.
Bacharach plays with host Andy Williams for Williams' "Kaleidoscope Company" TV special in 1968.
From left, Bacharach, actress-singer Pearl Bailey and songwriter Hal David attend the Cue Awards in 1969. Bacharach and David teamed up to churn out many of the era's catchiest songs. Bacharach would compose the music and David would write the lyrics.
Bacharach poses in 1969 for an episode of the "Kraft Music Hall" TV series.
Bacharach, Dickinson and their daughter Nikki sit around the swimming pool of their Hollywood home in 1969.
Bacharach accepts the Academy Award for best original score in 1970. He composed the score for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
Bacharach and David, circa 1970.
Bacharach and Warwick work together in 1971.
Actor Rex Harrison and Bacharach, right, appear on the TV special "Burt Bacharach: Close to You" in 1972.
Bacharach jams with Stevie Wonder in 1973.
Bacharach and Dickinson watch their daughter Nikki play the piano in 1974. Bacharach and Dickinson divorced in 1980.
Bacharach and his third wife, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, hold Grammys they won for the hit song "That's What Friends Are For" in 1987. The charity collaboration between Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Wonder topped the charts in 1986 and raised millions for AIDS research.
Bacharach plays with Warwick and Whitney Houston in 1990.
Bacharach, center, appears on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno in 2000. At left is fellow guest Lyle Lovett.
Bacharach — along with his fourth wife, Jane Hansen, and their children, Oliver and Raleigh — appear in New York with David and his wife, Eunice, for the opening night of "The Look of Love: The Songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David" in 2003.
Bacharach performs with Ronald Isley at a record release party in New York in 2003.
Bacharach listens while jazz pianist Marian McPartland plays a tune during a radio taping in 2004.
Warwick greets Bacharach after she performed an all-star medley with "American Idol" finalists in 2006.
Bacharach stands on stage with his children Raleigh and Oliver after winning a Grammy for best pop instrumental album in 2006.
Bacharach performs with Adele and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London in 2008.
Bacharach, third from left, takes a bow on the opening night of the Broadway musical "Promises, Promises" in 2010. With him, from left, are Kristin Chenoweth, Simon, Sean Hayes, David, Rob Ashford and Tony Goldwyn.
President Barack Obama applauds Bacharach after he and David were awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2012.
Bacharach poses for a portrait in 2013.
Bacharach walks off stage after performing at a jazz festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2019.
In pictures: Legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach
Bacharach composed and arranged music for the 1967 James Bond spoof “Casino Royale,” which included “The Look of Love” by Dusty Springfield,
He also wrote “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the 1969 western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Sung by B.J. Thomas, it topped the charts after appearing prominently in the film.
Later in his career Bacharach cemented his status as a ’60s icon by appearing as himself in all three “Austin Powers” movies.
He also collaborated on an acclaimed, Grammy-winning album, “Painted From Memory,” in 1998 with English singer-songwiter Elvis Costello.
“The songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David canvassed my childhood and soundtracked every cool cocktail party back in the day,” wrote singer and former teen idol Shaun Cassidy on Twitter. “Their work with @Dionnewarwick is unsurpassed, and Bacharach with Elvis Costello? Forget it. Listen to “God Give Me Strength” right now. #RIPBurtBacharach.”
Bacharach had high-profile marriages to actress Angie Dickinson and later to lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, with whom he wrote “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).” That Christopher Cross hit, from the 1981 comedy “Arthur,” won an Oscar the following year.