From the Sweet Spot

    Burt Bacharach: The Post-Hal David Years

    Issue 153

    The Burt Bacharach and Hal David songwriting team was one for history! However, they had a falling out in the mid-1970s, and then Bacharach worked with other lyricists. While his recordings from his post-David period are few, there are still many highlights from these later years. Burt Bacharach is still active today, his most recent recordings featuring a collaboration with Daniel Tashian. While we could go on for several more installments, Bacharach’s tunes have been covered so many times by so many artists and bands that it would ultimately be a futile, never-ending effort.

    With that in mind, our final installment features primarily Bacharach’s own recordings since his split with Hal David, along with a couple of career highlights.

    Although Bacharach did split with Hal David following the fiasco that was the Lost Horizon film soundtrack, they regrouped temporarily for a 1975 Motown album by Stephanie Mills called For the First Time. Bacharach would cover the same tune on his album Futures.

     

    Perhaps the best-known highlight in Bacharach’s career was penning the song “That’s What Friends Are For.” Originally recorded by Rod Stewart in 1982, Dionne Warwick later arranged for the song to be done under the name of “Dionne and Friends” as a fundraiser in 1985, featuring a collaboration with Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Bacharach and his then-wife Carole Bayer Sager wrote the music and lyrics, and this version of the song went on to win two Grammy awards and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.

     

    After composing the tune “God Give Me Strength” for the film Grace of my Heart, collaborators Bacharach and Elvis Costello decided to complete an album together. It seemed the most unlikely pairing – composer and easy-listening pop music composer with the former angry young man of punk rock. But what a pairing it turned out to be, producing the album Painted from Memory. In all his post-Hal David years, Bacharach has never had such a formidable writing partner as Costello – it is a high-water mark in both of their musical careers. “I Still Have That Other Girl” won a 1998 Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

     

    2005 found Bacharach returning to the studio to record a new, mostly instrumental album under his own name, his first in decades. While the album is the typical assemblage of well-known guest musicians, notable is the participation of Dr. Dre (who provided some of the beats) and Tonio K. (as a lyrical collaborator). Elvis Costello would return to sing a part on the following tune, “Who Are These People?”, which was Bacharach’s version of a protest song for the political situation in the US at the time. The album was slickly-produced but did not have much in the way of memorable songs on it. The following was the single from the album, with an alternate version featuring an explicit lyric.

     

    Another collaboration paired Bacharach with Ronald Isley, lead singer and founder of The Isley Brothers. As with past projects, Bacharach fills the role of producer, arranger and conductor on this 2003 recording. Here is their version of the classic “Make It Easy On Yourself.”

     

    In 1986, another Bacharach/Bayer Sager tune topped the charts. “On My Own,” featuring the pairing of Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, hit Number One the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, and would be the biggest hit single for both artists.

     

    One of Bacharach’s most recent collaborations is with songwriter Daniel Tashian, which resulted in the Grammy-nominated EP Blue Umbrella, released early in 2020. Here is the title track from that release.

     

    In December 2020, Bacharach released a few more tunes in a collaboration with Melody Federer. One of them is: “The Sun Also Rises.”

     

    To wrap our series on Burt Bacharach up, here is a video of the maestro himself, performing his favorite tune – “Alfie.”

     

    Still active at 92, Burt Bacharach has stopped touring but continues to compose and collaborate. To keep up with the latest news or dive deeper into his many recordings and compositions, the Bacharach Online web site has it all – news, discography, lyrics, media, tour schedule and a discussion forum. Online streaming sources are chock-full of great albums that Bacharach had a hand in arranging, conducting and producing, and his songs with Hal David have become modern day pop standards. Go forth and explore the immense body of work Bacharach has created, and continues to create to this day!

    Previous installments in this series appeared in Issues 146, 147, 148, 149, and 151.

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