It is not surprising that Rolling stone classified magazine Burt bacharach among the best songwriters of all time. His prolific career, which began in the 1950s, produced some of the most beloved songs of all time including “Walk On By”, “This Guy’s in Love With You”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, ” (They Long to Be) Close to You âandâ Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘on My Head â.
Along the way, Burt, 93, has won six Grammys, three Oscars and his songs have been recorded by over 1,000 different artists. And he hasn’t finished yet! Broadway Records recently released Some Lovers by Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater, his first original score for the stage since the 1960s. “The score is quite special,” says Burt Closer of this concept album, which follows the life of a couple caught between their present and their past. âI am very proud of it.
Was music a part of your life growing up in Kew Gardens, NY?
I have always loved music. I had a small group with the kids I was in high school with. We weren’t very good! But I think if music is in your blood, you hear it and you follow that trail.
Have you always planned to become a composer?
I had no idea where I was going to end up. No idea at all.
As a young man, you were the arranger and conductor of Marlene Dietrich’s nocturnal shows. How did it happen?
I needed a job! I needed the money!
What did Marlene enjoy working with?
It was not a great joy to listen to her sing, but she supported me a lot in my profession and very proud of the work that I did away from her.
Did you learn something from her?
Yes. The one thing I’ll always remember: if you want to do something, don’t delegate it. Do it yourself. Don’t ask someone else to do it. Do it yourself.
Do you still have faith in the songs you write? Have you ever hesitated to put something there?
No, I am very careful to pass judgment: is it really good? Did I write something good enough? I like to step away from the keyboard, not play it on the piano, and just let myself hear it in my head and live with it for a few days. You’re talking about a piece that would last three or four minutes, not an entire symphony. So do it right, listen to it carefully, and always step away from your musical instrument. That means, playing it in my head to make sure it holds up and that it still feels and sounds great.
Do you write songs every day? Or only when you have a project due?
I don’t write every day. I would say I try. I always try to do something creatively.
Do you have a favorite among your songs?
Overall I think âAlfieâ is one of the best songs I’ll ever write. I am very proud of it.
Of course, everyone remembers the hits you wrote for Dionne Warwick. What was it like working with her?
We were a good trio. There was Dionne, me and [lyricist] Hal david. We would go into the studio with Dionne, and I would write the orchestration, and then we would do these records like “Walk On By” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart”. She had a very good musicality and you could write for that voice.
Who else have you really enjoyed working with?
ArÃ©tha Franklin. She was just so perfectly musical.
Did any of your children follow you in music?
I have a son, Oliver, who plays in my band on the road. We have traveled Europe together.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’ve won three Oscars, a few Grammys, but perhaps the proudest would be the Gershwin Prize that the Library of Congress presented to me by [President] Barack obama. This one does not represent any piece of music. This represents your work, period.
You have already done so much. Is there anything else you would like to achieve?
I would like to live longer!
Do you think you will ever retire?
Tell us about the new album, Some Lovers by Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater.
The name of the musical is Some lovers. Steven and I started working on the show – he’s a really good writer, he wrote Spring awakening, which has been very successful. We started to write songs for Some lovers around the concept of a four-person pitch. It opened at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. People loved the sheet music, but they had a hard time with the book and following the plot. Since then we’ve been working on different parts of the show, doing workshops, just trying to make it a better show.
Why is this project so special to you?
I think the songs are really good. These are some of the best musically songs I have ever written. Steven is also a very good lyricist. We believe in the material, we believe in the album, and that it will find its place in these regional theaters or, perhaps, off-Broadway. There are no guarantees, but I am optimistic because I believe in the matter.
Are there any young artists you would like to work with?
Yes, John legend is brilliant. So we’ll see, every day is a new day.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in life?
I think being a nice person is the key. Be kind and treat people with respect.