News Column

Bacharach opens his heart for music lovers

June 15, 2013


By Shay Healy

Having written the songs for a movie called Lost Horizon with his lyricist partner Hal David, composer Burt Bacharach got snarled up for two years as music supervisor on the movie, while David was off in Mexico, playing tennis and chilling out.

So Bacharach called him up in Mexico and said: "Hal, I know we''re getting five points, but we''re never going to see anything from this picture. From what I hear it may even bankrupt Columbia. Still, it would really make me feel better if instead of splitting the five points, I had three and you had two. Hal said: 'I can''t do that.'' And I said, 'F**k you and f**k the picture'." '."

According to Bacharach, thus ended Bacharach/David, one of the great songwriting partnerships in the music history of the latter half of the 20th century.

In this extraordinary biography, there is no prose to admire or critique.

It is a series of excerpts from a master interview Bacharach did with Eric Lax. With the help of his co-author on this book, Robert Greenfield, he filleted Dax''s interview and with each excerpt they extracted, they also dug up relevant interviews with ex-wives, contemporaries and friends of Bacharach to expand on a topic, an anecdote or an incident. In his own glib way, he is a good storyteller and because syntax is unnecessary, his freewheeling use of the music/showbiz vernacular ultimately makes it a compulsive page-turner.

Musicians will love this book.

The range of musicians and singers mentioned along the way stretches from Perry Como to Luther Vandross, but it is the manner in which he takes us behind the scenes that is so beguiling. He spares no-one, including himself, nor does he flay anyone alive. His honesty is very American, abrasive and mouthy. Unexpectedly, he is also surprisingly candid about all the flops he endured and he doesn''t hesitate to pay obeisance to the maxim 'you''re only as good as your last hit'. '.

Bacharach and David's list of great songs they wrote is formidable: Walk On By, Alfie, What the World Needs Now, Anyone Who had a Heart, That''s What Friends are For.

Bacharach was very attractive to women. For several of his early years, he went on tour with Marlene Dietrich, as pianist and conductor. When she tried to kiss him one night, he rebuffed her.

She got past the rejection and they remained close friends, but when Burt married Angie Dickinson, the sexiest and hottest American film star of the day, Marlene showed her jealousy when she excoriated Dickinson.

Bacharach''s marriage to Dickinson was flawed from the start. The bubble of alcohol that had carried them to a chapel over a grocery store in Las Vegas at 3.45am had burst even before the ceremony took place. She realised that she had been gulled by his charm into marrying Bacharach.

The novel technique of piecing together quotes, anecdotes and clippings around Bacharach''s master interview, is slick and seamless. It reads like the transcript of a film documentary and if anything it enhances this portrait of a musical maestro, who has left an indelible mark on popular music.

Originally published by Anyone Who Had A Heart: My Life In Music By Burt Bacharach Atlantic Books, Pounds 20 Review by Shay Healy.

(c) 2013 Belfast Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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