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Bacharach, Burt (băkˈərăkˌ), 1928–, American composer, arranger, and conductor, b. Kansas City, Mo. He began his career playing piano with jazz bands in the 1940s and then as a pianist and arranger for nightclub acts, notably with Marlene Dietrich in the 1950s. With lyricist Hal David, Bacharach produced many popular songs from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, including more than 50 top singles. These include “Don't Make Me Over,” “What the World Needs Now,” “Walk On By,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” The team also provided words and music for the successful Broadway musical Promises, Promises (1968) and the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; Academy Award). The partnership ended in 1973, and Bacharach began working with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager in 1981 (they married the following year). The two scored a big hit with their song “That's What Friends Are For” in 1986. Bachrach has also written soundtracks for later films, e.g., Arthur (1981; Academy Award), Grace of My Heart (1996, with rocker Elvis Costello), and Austin Powers (1997). Bacharach's music utilizes a variety of styles, including Latin, rock, and gospel, and is marked by unexpected chord changes.
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Bacharach, Burt(1929– ) composer; born in Kansas City, Mo. He played piano in a high school dance band (in Queens, New York City) and studied piano and composition at Mannes School of Music, Berkshire Music Center, and McGill University (Montreal). Drawn to popular music, he played the piano during his army service (1950–52) and then worked as accompanist for Vic Damone and other singers. In 1957 he met Hal David, already a fairly successful lyricist, and they teamed up to write such hits as "Magic Moments" (1957) and "The Story of My Life" (1957). Between 1958–61, Bacharach was musical director for Marlene Dietrich's shows, but he returned to collaborate with Hal David and during the 1960s and early 1970s their music earned singer Dionne Warwick several Grammy Awards and gold records. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969) was another of their superhits, while Promises, Promises (1968) was their most successful musical. In 1975, Bacharach broke with Dionne Warwick (they were reunited in 1984), Hal David, and his then wife, Angie Dickinson, but he found a new career as performer of his music on tour and television. Starting in the late 1970s he revived his career as a composer with lyricist and wife (from 1982) Carol Bayer Sager.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.