Woman’s Day (Australia)
GOODBYE TO THE KING OF ROMANCE
Seven decades of songs: Hollywood’s great composer bows out
Barbra Streisand says Burt Bacharach was “as sweet as his songs” as she farewelled the musical great after he died on February 8, aged 94. “He left us with a long legacy of music we will never forget.” She sang a duet with Burt of (They Long To Be) Close To You on her 1991 album.
It’s just one of the musical creations that will see Burt remembered for composing some of the best-loved pop songs of the 20th century, including Aretha Franklin’s I Say A Little Prayer, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and What The World Needs Now Is Love, in a career spanning seven decades.
“It’s a gift,” Burt once said of songwriting. “An endowment, if you like. I write a song, record it with an artist, do the orchestration and make a record. After that, you need to let go. I don’t ever think about the songs I’ve written or the effect they may have had on people. I’m usually on to the next song, being haunted in the middle of the night with a melody in my head.”
Burt teamed up with lyricist Hal David in 1957 after they wrote the number-one hit Magic Moments for Perry Como. The duo wrote hundreds of hits together in a collaboration that would last decades.
Burt wrote more than 500 songs, with Hal David and other collaborators, and won six Grammys and three Academy Awards.
The king of romantic songs had a rocky relationship history of his own though.
“With my first wife [Paula Stewart] I married at 25 at a point when I was struggling to pay bills,” the star, who was married four times, once revealed. “I was on the road with Marlene Dietrich, doing her music arranging, and it was hard to keep a marriage alive.”
Burt confessed in his 2013 memoir that he “started thinking about getting a divorce” just nine months into his second marriage, to actress Angie Dickinson. “I’d
already had a couple of affairs by this time. There was a stunning violinist who was on the road with me, and another woman in New York, too,” wrote the star. The pair didn’t divorce until 15 years later, though.
His next marriage, to lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, was both a personal and professional collaboration. After co-writing his 1981 Oscar winning song Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) and adopting a son together, the couple split after nine years of marriage.
“I wrote with Carole, lived with Carole and made records with Carole,” he said of his third wife, with whom he adopted son Cristopher in 1985. “Perhaps it was all a bit too much.”
LOVE & HEARTBREAK
His next and final union was to former ski instructor Jane Hanson, who was 32 years his junior and with whom he shared son Oliver and daughter Raleigh. “I never fell out of love with marriage, though,” Burt once said. “This is why I am at my happiest with Jane. There was never any thought not to marry again once I had met her.”
But the sting of his divorces stayed with him. “I didn’t mean to hurt anybody,” he said, “but when you’re married four times, there are a lot of bodies strewn in your wake.”
Failed marriages weren’t the star’s only heartbreak. In 2007, Burt and Angie’s only daughter, Nikki, died by suicide aged 40.
“I hated the way she did it… alone,” Burt said of his eldest child, who left behind a note for her famous father. “I know exactly what’s in the note. I never read the note. I never will. There is no need to read it. I already know what she said.”