Carole King has written an excellent remembrance of Burt Bacharach for The Washington Post, but it’s also on her Facebook page for free.
In 1962, the lyricist (and my then-husband) Gerry Goffin and I were driving up the Garden State Parkway when we heard Dionne Warwick’s recording of “Don’t Make Me Over” for the first time. We were stunned into silence. If we hadn’t been in the left lane between exits, it would have been a pull-over-to-the-side-of-the-road moment.When the song was over, I exclaimed: “What was that?”By “that” I meant the time signature changes, the instrumentation, and the unpredictable chords that allowed the melody to flow over them and carry the power of Warwick’s performance downstream.Gerry turned off the radio. I knew that he was already thinking about lyrics for a song in which we would aspire to rise to the standard of what we later learned was the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The rest of the piece is on Facebook.
Carole and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, not to mention Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were all part of what seems now like a quaint era of post Tin Pan Alley writing teams that came from New York and reinvented pop culture.
Along with the Motown teams in Detroit, and the Stax powerhouse couple of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, plus the Beatles, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan, then Elton John and Billy Joel, they laid out the foundation for everything that followed. They were Gershwin’s and Cole Porter’s descendants. When you look at the contemporary music scene, you could cry for how far we’ve fallen.
Paul McCartney wrote today on Twitter: Dear Burt Bacharach has passed away. His songs were an inspiration to people like me. I met him on a couple of occasions and he was a very kind and talented man who will be missed by us all. His songs were distinctive and different from many others in the ’60s and ’70s…When we met not too long ago he reminded me that he had been the musical director for Marlene Dietrich when The Beatles shared the bill with her at the London Palladium. He was a lovely man. Nancy and I send lots of love to his family.
It’s funny how Goffin and King wanted to be Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney wanted to be Goffin and King, and so on. Lightning struck that generation. We’re so lucky it happened.