Iconic composer Burt Bacharach has passed away at the age of 94. I was fortunate to interview him for this article in The West Australian, originally published in April, 2012.
On his Farewell To The Symphonies tour, Burt Bacharach will trace through a life of hits and classics, songs such as Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, The Look Of Love and, appropriately enough, Always Something There To Remind Me.
It’s not the only reminiscent gesture that Bacharach is in the midst of, however. It seems the notoriously guarded composing great is preparing to spill the beans and is publishing a memoir entitled Anyone Who Had A Heart, in November.
“I’ve not held back,” Bacharach reveals. “I’ve been pretty upfront about not avoiding anything. I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with my daughter Nikki’s (2007) death, from suicide. Instead of just having a couple pages, I go deep into it; it’s all been about not holding back. In a way, by the very process of having to do that and having to confront your feelings on something like that, you’re not permitting yourself to abbreviate or short-circuit it. It was pretty cathartic.”
Bacharach has already laid bare his memories on tape, which are now being collated by US writer, Robert Greenfield.
“I didn’t just want this to be about music,” Bacharach says, “I wanted it to be about where I am in my life. He’s spoken to many people in my life, which is very interesting because I’ve found what’s left of my family.
“I like that he’s spoken to people. He’s talked to all four of my wives – my present wife and three ex-wives.”
Paula Stewart, Angie Dickinson, Carole Bayer Sager and Jane Hansen aren’t the only relationships on the table. Bacharach’s also been through tempestuous times with lyricist Hal David, who co-wrote many of the composer’s most iconic hits.
“It’s sort of a marriage that ran into trouble,” Bacharach says of their relationship. “It all exploded because of a (1973) film called Lost Horizon, a musical which should have never been made. It caused a split between all of us; Hal and Dionne (Warwick) and it was a mistake.
“It fractured the relationship. Hal and I didn’t speak for 12 years. There were lawsuits and all sorts. There’s nothing like a disastrous film that affects a studio to break up a relationship, if you know what I mean.”
Time heals, however. After his Australian tour Bacharach returns to the US to receive the prestigious Gershwin Award, along with David.
“We’re fine, fine, fine. Not that we write together anymore. Hal wrote with other people. I wrote with Carole Bayer Sager, Elvis Costello, Dr Dre. Is it to say that Hal and I will never write another song together? No. But it’s a different music business now.”
The man who counts Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Ravel and Debussy as his heroes and first toured Australia with Marlene Dietrich in the late-‘50s, says he’s had moments where he’s been over the whole business, but is always led back.
“The thing about making music and performing your music is that there always will be people who it will make an impact upon. It will make them happy. That’s not a bad thing, is it, to make people happy?
“You might ask, ‘why is he still performing?’ You’ve got your answer right there.”