94-year-old Jewish hitmaker Burt Bacharach dies. Burt Bacharach passed away on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He co-wrote several successes with Hal David in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Alfie” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” He was 94.
Dionne Warwick’s career was catapulted by the songs “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” all written by Jewish New Yorkers Bacharach and David.
Several famous Jewish songwriting teams, including Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, all worked out of the Brill Building in Manhattan. Whereas most of their contemporaries were penning rock ‘n’ roll songs for the expanding teen market, these songwriters instead found inspiration in the Great American Songbook and Broadway.
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For their efforts, Broadway producer David Merrick awarded them a Tony Award in 1968 for their work on the musical “Promises, Promises,” which featured the smash songs “Promises” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Again, the show’s Jewish roots ran deep: Neil Simon adapted the screenplay for the 1960 picture “The Apartment,” written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, so the show’s book had a Jewish provenance.
In Forest Hills, Queens, Bacharach was raised by his journalist father and amateur musician mother. He reflected on this in his memoirs with Robert Greenfield, “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” published in 2013: “No one in my family ever went to synagogue or gave much attention to being Jewish.”
However, in 2013, author Jonathan Freedman told the New York Jewish Week that Bacharach’s “wild play with time signatures; he is to time signatures what [George] Gershwin is to chord changes,” describing what made Bacharach’s music Jewish. He cited Bacharach as an example of how Jewish artists “enter popular forms and make them their own,” telling him was “very adventurous and experimental.”
Near the conclusion of his life, Bacharach worked with rock artist Elvis Costello. Seven Grammys total, including one for the best pop instrumental album in 2006 for “At This Time.” When the British “New Wave” in rock was at its peak in 1983, a synth-pop cover of the Bacharach-David song “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes made it into the Billboard Top Ten.
At some point, Bacharach got back together with Warwick and David. Bacharach and David were awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress in 2012, 40 years after their induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame shortly before David’s death at age 91. This award is named after the Jewish composer to whom Bacharach has been frequently compared.