Burt Bacharach, the legendary songwriter who wrote hits like “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” has died. He was 94.
Bacharach died at his home in Los Angeles on Wednesday. His publicist, Tina Brausam, told the Associated Press that his death was natural.
The Recording Academy has put the six-time Grammy winner up for awards 21 times. The late actor also won three Academy Awards (for Arthur and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
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In 1996, he was given the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s most prestigious award, the Johnny Mercer Award. This was 20 years after he won the award.
The composer was best known for his long-lasting partnership with lyricist Hal David, with whom he wrote dozens of hits, including many for Dionne Warwick.
Warwick told PEOPLE last year of their early days –
“Bacharach and [Hal] David both were as new to this industry as I was, so we kind of all grew together.”
“There was really no need for them to think that they could change anything about me—and what developed was magical, I got to tell you that. We became best friends, most family than friends, actually, and a relationship that lasted for quite a long time.”
Bacharach talked to PEOPLE in 2019 about how well the two worked together and praised Warwick’s “tremendous musicality.” He and David met Warwick when she was a backup singer in the early 1960s.
He said –
“She had a voice that was like glass; it was so clean, it was so pure and so distinctive, and you could immediately know it was Dionne.”
Bacharach and Rudy Pérez worked together in 2018 to make the song “Live to See Another Day,” which has a charitable element. The song was written because there were too many school shootings in the U.S. at the time.
He told sources at the time –
“School should be a safe place.”
“When I went to school, which was a long time ago, my chief concern was what grades would I get. There never was a thought of a shooter. It’s unimaginable to me, yet it happens too often. I thought, ‘What do I do?’ I get grounded by writing music. I have something to say, so I said it by writing a song with Rudy Pérez.”
The money made from “Live to See Another Day” was given to Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that works to stop the violence that was started by the families of people who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Bacharach told –
“We’ve got to protect kids going to school. They should be going without fear.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to push this forward.”
Bacharach was born in Missouri on May 12, 1928, and grew up in Queens, New York. His mother, who was a painter and songwriter, made sure he took piano lessons as a child. But people knew that he didn’t like his classical piano lessons and instead chose to follow his interest in jazz music.
Bacharach told Entertainment Weekly in 1997 that he kept taking lessons because he thought it would make his mother feel bad. “That’s the only reason I did not stop.”
Bacharach went on to get a Bachelor of Music degree. During his college years, the hitmaker studied many different kinds of music, including jazz harmony, which has had a big impact on his style over the years.
After his time in the U.S. Army was over, Bacharach worked for three years as a pianist and conductor for the late singer Vic Damone. He went on to work as Marlene Dietrich’s music director after she passed away.
Bacharach’s career took a big turn when he began working with Hal David. He met David at the Brill Building in New York City in 1957.
Bacharach told –
“He seemed like a nice enough guy. Pretty good work ethic.”
“He’d come in, put his hours in, get in his car, and go home.”
Marty Robbins recorded “The Story of My Life,” and it went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Country chart in 1957. Bacharach made memorable cameos in Mike Myers’ Austin Powers movies in his later years. Myers said he was inspired to make the Austin Powers movies after hearing Bacharach’s song “The Look of Love” on the radio.
In 1999, Myers told that Burt Bacharach was the coolest American of all time. “He’s laid-back with that cool, husky voice. Chicks find him dreamy.” Bacharach won the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2008.
His fourth wife, Jane Hansen, whom he married in 1993, and their three children, Oliver, Raleigh, and Christopher, are the only people who will remember him. Bacharach’s daughter Nikki, whom he had with his ex-wife Angie Dickinson, died before he did.