90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Burt Bacharach

The wizard of pop.  From “Raindrops” to “Walk On By.” Burt Bacharach joins us with his new memoir of a life in music.

U.S. pianist , composer and music producer Burt Bacharach performs during a concert at the Arena Civica in Milan, Italy, Wedneday, July 6, 2011. (AP)

U.S. pianist , composer and music producer Burt Bacharach performs during a concert at the Arena Civica in Milan, Italy, Wedneday, July 6, 2011. (AP)

There was a time in America – and a long time, in the 1960’s and ‘70s – when the soundtrack of American life seemed to be owned for millions by one man.  Composer Burt Bacharach.

His songs – “What the World Needs Now,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “The Look of Love,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “Alfie,” “Walk On By,” “Promises Promises” – and many, many more just took over the airwaves.  73 top 40 hits.  Now he’s telling his story.

This hour, On Point:  pop music wizard, Burt Bacharach.

- Tom Ashbrook


Burt Bacharach, composer, conductor, arranger, and pianist. Winner of a Grammy award, three Academy Awards, and two Golden Globes. His new memoir is “Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life And Music.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Smashing Interviews Magazine: Burt Bacharach Interview – “Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music was released May 7, 2013. This memoir offers a candid backstage look at show business as well as the personal struggles of this iconic artist whose songs have been recorded by some of the most influential singers of the 20th century. He steps out from behind the music to give an honest, engaging look at his life from his work with Hal David, Dionne Warwick and Elvis Costello and many others to his tumultuous marriages and the devastating fate of his beloved daughter (who committed suicide in 2007 at age 40).”

The Washington Times: Top 10 Burt Bacharach Songs — “Musician and composer Burt Bacharach celebrates his 85th birthday on May 12. Best known for his partnership with lyricist Hal David, the duo produced many hits from the 1950s onward, particularly with singer Dionne Warwick. The List this week looks at the top 10 tunes composed by Mr. Bacharach.”

Noise11: Chuck Lorre To Work With Burt Bacharach And Elvis Costello On Musical — “Producer Chuck Lorre, the creator of ‘Two and a Half Men’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Mike and Molly’ is working on a musical with Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. In 1998 Bacharach and Costello released their album ‘Painted From Memory’. The idea for the album germinated when the unlikely musical collaborators worked together on the song ‘God Give Me Strength’ for the 1996 movie ‘Grace Of My Heart’.”

Excerpt: ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ by Burt Bacharach

Show Playlist

List of songs we used on the show. And as always, subscribe to the Ultimate On Point Playlist on Spotify for an updated list of the music we feature.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Thank you Mr. Bacharach, thank you, for all of your
    wonderful music. So much of today’s music is angry, loud, corporate and without pleasing melodies. I guess it is fair to say that today’s music is a reflection of society at large. I can remember visiting my uncle’s bar when I was younger ( Legally too young. Things were different then. ) in the seventies. He had a piano bar. It was a regular event to walk in and hear the patrons singing “old” songs. Sometimes alone, sometimes in unison. It wasn’t about grandstanding or pretense, just fun. I believe that, that is what’s missing today, in music ; fun . But that’s alright, (cuz), ‘…nothings worrying me !

  • Gregg Smith

    Songwriting is a craft and Bacharach is a master craftsman. It’s becoming a lost art.

  • Jasoturner

    Wow, Burt Bacharach.  Funny, but back in the 70s when I was listening to stuff like The Band and Neil Young and Zappa with my buddies, I was the only one in my group who also listened to Burt Bacharach.  I took some ribbing, for sure.  But the dude wrote (and I guess still writes) some absolutely gorgeous songs.  This reminds me to revisit the oeuvre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WildRicey Susan Rice

    You are singing my entire Spotify playlist thank you…it keeps me alive!!!!! Saw you ine 70′s…..you are an amazing woman!!!!!

  • Wahoo_wa

    Good stuff!

    • Wahoo_wa

      …and BTW I never got the Barbra gay gene but I certainly got the Burt Bacharach/Dionne Warwick gay gene.

  • terenceduran

    Mr. Bacharach is the  most under rated song writer of our time.  You ask how can one recognize a Burt Bacharach song it is impossible, his songs are all different from each other.  My question is how much did Bert Bacharach influence his career?

  • Roy-in-Boise

    Great guest!  Sometimes I wonder about the music of the present generation. The lack of melody leaves something to be desired.

  • SBB

    That intro Marlene Dietrich gave of Burt Bacharach made me laugh as she sounded just like Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein – “He was my…BOY FRIEND!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/drpmeade Paul S Meade

    Thanks Tom for this program and Thank you, thank you Burt Bacharach for your music.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimhfoster Jim Foster

    Certainly others have a claim, like Carole King, Quincy Jones, Lennon & McCartney, etc. But, I think Burt Bacharach may be the greatest composer of popular songs in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s amazing that he worked very closely with both Marlene Dietrich and Dionne Warwick, not to mention also having his songs recorded by both Tom Jones and The Beatles.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    I’ve never heard a Bacharach song I didn’t like.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Wow, I didn’t know the biggest names in music education missed out on a musical genius.

  • Queen Cupcake

    Burt Bacharach is my musical hero. I was lucky to hear him perform “Alfie” at the close of a concert of his music at the Berklee School of Music a couple of years ago. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, and will be a cherished memory for all of my life.

  • burroak

    Burt, what a journey. My grandfather was a self-taught trombone virtuoso and a bigband composer, arranger, knew Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Harry James, and played the night of the Coconut Grove Fire. I never had the chance to ask him what inspired his creative genius. So, I ask you: what inspires your creativity?

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.shepherd.509 David Shepherd

    I would appreciate hearing more mention of Hal David’s contributions, without whose lyrics many of these songs would not be so indelible.

  • Ann Faison

    I wonder if he has anything to say about the Carpenters?
    I grew up with a Burt Bachrach fan in the house, my mother, though I thought the music corny as a teen into New Wave.  She also loved the Carpenters.  But after my mother died, I found myself falling in love with both the Carpenters and Burt Bachrach. 

  • BLouConaway

    As a little girl I would go with my mom to her singing lessons from the wonderful Bob Allen in Columbus, OH, and they covered his entire songbook at the time (60s). As an adult I would find myself singing along to songs I didn’t even know I knew. Very glad to hear someone bring up the collaboration with Elvis Costello–one of my all time favorite albums, and Toledo the most inspired song on the album. Wonderful program, great man and musician! Thank you Tom and Burt!

  • Bruce94

    As someone who grew up in the 60′s learning jazz theory and stride piano and listening to many different genres of music, I really appreciate today’s guest and his extraordinary songwriting gift.  I remember one of my first gigs at a resort hotel in Myrtle Beach, SC and having to pull together a lot of music in a short period of time.  We relied heavily on the Bacharach songbook and sheets for the dinner music portion of our job.  You could not go wrong inserting one of his songs into the set.  Back then he was a huge favorite; it’s great to hear his songs again now.

    Thanks On Point for bringing back the memories.       

    • Gregg Smith

      Ah Myrtle Beach, speaking of memories. Holliday Inn North, The Hilton, The Hyatt, The Spanish Galleon, Castaways, The Pavilion, Bike rallies at the Civic Center, Revolutions, Broadway at the Beach and on and on, I’ve played them all. No point really.

      You’re right on about Bacharach, you can’t go wrong.

      • Bruce94

        You sound a lot more accomplished or versatile than I was/am as a musician.  The only venue I ever played in Myrtle Beach was the Ocean Forest Hotel.  Was told Gerry Mulligan and other heavy weights had played there once, but he was long gone by the time I got there.  Still don’t understand why they hired us (a trio) since I didn’t sight read well and was really inexperienced.

        Back then, I was listening more to Brubeck, Monk, Hancock, Tyner, Evans, Corea, Zeitlin…and even traveled to Boston to talk to admissions staff at the then Berklee School of Music. Eventually decided to stay put where I was and finish a degree program unrelated to music.

        BTW while I’m at it, just curious about your credentials as a musician. I thought I heard your name the other day on NPR as a provider or composer of the theme music on some other show(s). Just a coincidence?

        • Gregg Smith

          I’ve made a living for a long time and played many big shows. I’ve been a lot of places and met a lot of people. I’ve hob-nobbed with big shots and have a few on my roledex.

          But, I’m not all that great. I had awful rhythm and a tin ear. Now I have decent rhythm from eons with a metronome and a learned ear. What I do have is passion and, if I may say so, a very creative mind. I love the idea of turning ideas into products and being paid for it. If you saw Amadeus  I am much more like Salieri (without the resentment) than I am Mozart. I learned long ago that talent is just a very small part of what it takes to succeed in the music business. Musician’s egos usually don’t let them realize that fact.

          If you play stride Piano and Jazz then you have chops. Don’t sell yourself short. Besides, music is too sacred to compare talents. In my case I chose music over a family and a steady job. It was hard.

          No, that’s not me. I have a common name and I think there are more than one Gregg Smith who are far more successful in the field than I. I’ve mostly performed but now focus on writing and recording. I’ve been on CD’s but nothing major. I’ve broken even on original projects but not much more.

          I did just finish my first film project and am contracted for two more. It was very humbling but in the end everybody was happy and I got the job for the others. Nothing may ever come from it but reading the credits as they scroll by is a thrill. If I get a royalty check I won’t care if it’s for $1. It’s a new and exciting chapter for me.

          • Bruce94

             Sounds like you parlayed your passion for music into some very worthwhile projects. While I had a teacher who taught me stride piano, I didn’t stick with it for many years. My span (left hand) wasn’t that great, so I had to roll my tenths which caused problems in certain keys and tempos.  Anyway, that liability along with my exposure to hard bop and, later, alternatives like West Coast, modal & cool jazz led me to a place very different from where I started.  Ultimately, it was Bill Evans’ style, lines and harmonic language that influenced me the most whether I realized it or not at the time. 

            Unlike yourself, I didn’t make music my living, but got to know a few musicians who did, and admire them for the risks they were willing to take, their artistry and passion.  Today, I enjoy re-arranging standards and occasionally playing solo piano providing background or “cocktail” music at special events.    

            I opted for a family and steady job with no regrets, but like you never lost my  reverence for the music. 

  • turnerware
  • http://www.facebook.com/hugh.nevin Hugh Nevin

    Tom asked BB at the beginning of the interview how he would describe his own sound.   
    If I may offer this thoroughly informed, subjective appraisal:
    Bacharach’s signature sound represents the end of a Golden era in songwriting that began with tin pan alley. 
    His music/song writing is a class act from the instrumental introduction to the codas - even the (few) ones that didn’t make it as chart busters (like BJ Thomas’s Everybody’s Out of Town) - and the best in popular orchestration, craftmanship, intelligent, haunting lyrics, different, imaginative arrangements; in short, just about the opposite of what popular music has become today.

    For many people his songs represent a sort of ongoing personal soundtrack; memories recalled, moments relived.

    God love him.


Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 22, 2014
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

On mixed media messaging, Spotify serendipity and a view of Earth from the International Space Station.

More »
Your (Weird? Wonderful? Wacky?) Roommate Stories
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

We asked, and you delivered: some of the best roommate stories from across our many listener input channels.

More »
Our Week In The Web: August 15, 2014
Friday, Aug 15, 2014

On Pinterest, Thomas the Tank Engine and surprising population trends from around the country. Also, words on why we respond to your words, tweets and Facebook posts.

More »