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Burt Bacharach still going strong at 90

REGION — At 90 years old, music icon Burt Bacharach — who is playing at the Pala Casino Spa & Resort on Feb. 23 — said he’s not about to retire until someone tells him to “stop or that he’s out of fashion.”

Bacharach is the legendary Hollywood composer of such famous hits as “Alfie,” “Arthur’s Theme,” “Close To You,” “Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk On By,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and “Wishin’ And Hopin.’” 

Throughout his career he has had 48 Top 10 hits and nine No. 1 songs, and he recently spoke with The Coast News about his upcoming show and his extraordinary life.

The Pala performance is intended for folks of all ages and it will consist of “many songs that people know and grew up with, as well as some new stuff,” he said.

Who is Burt Bacharach?

Born in Kansas City and raised in New York City, Burt Freeman Bacharach is a renowned composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist and singer who has composed hundreds of pop songs from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many in collaboration with well-known lyricist Hal David.

Bacharach has also been one of the most honored and successful composers for six decades and his music is as diverse as his audiences, spanning generations and continents. He is celebrated as a pop culture icon and one of the world’s greatest contemporary composers.

He’s performed all over the world at a variety of venues and said he chose to play at the Pala because “he’s never played there before.” Most recently he has been performing at other casinos throughout California.

“I played in Palm Springs recently and many of these casino venues have great acoustics,” he said from his home in Los Angeles.

When asked what his all-time favorite song was that he was part of, he instantly said “Alfie” which he wrote for the 1966 motion picture of the same name starring actor Michael Caine and actress Shelley Winters. 

According to IMDb the film is about “An unrepentant ladies’ man who gradually begins to understand the consequences of his lifestyle.” It was remade in 2004 and starred actor Jude Law.

“It’s hard to separate all of the songs but ‘Alfie’ was a wonderful song to work on,” he said. “Some songs take longer than others to write, it just depends. It can be a long process. When I wrote ‘Alfie’ it was important to say what the song was about — it was an important song at the time and it also represented what was happening in England. I wanted to make it as good as I could make it.”

Retirement? 

One might ask at his age why not retire and relax, enjoy a quiet life? No way, he said.

“To me, I’m writing music, and we’re doing live concerts, performances and until someone says I can’t do it anymore or that I’m not fashionable, I’ll just keep going,” he said.

As for today’s music scene, Bacharach said it certainly has changed since he entered it. 

“It’s drastically changed compared to when I started,” he said. “I think it’s safe to stay that some of my songs might not have ever seen the light of day … I kind of yearn for those good songs that you hear and say ‘wow, I like that song and I want to hear it again, and again.’ Now, it’s more about the electronics and the beat. However, there’s some good stuff … like Lamar; he’s brilliant. I do miss melodic songs of yesteryear … Every once and a while you do here them.”

Lounge music, no way

And while some may refer to Bacharach’s music as “lounge, elevator, or even easy listening music,” Bacharach said lounge music is a term that was created in England ages ago.

“They liked to put labels on songs, but I don’t think of my music as lounge music … but they needed to say what kind of music it was. I call it sophisticated and urban music — not easy listening, lounge or elevator.” 

Married for a fourth time, to athlete Jane Hansen, since 1993, he remains friends with his ex-wives, including actress Angie Dickinson, and fellow musician Carole Bayer Sager.

“My advice is don’t get married until you really know the person and when you’re not in your 20s,” he said. “The secret to a happy marriage is trust and getting married when you are really ready.” 

A recipient of three Academy Awards and eight Grammys (including the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and 1997 Trustees Award with collaborator Hal David) he is credited with revolutionizing the music of the 1950s and 1960s. 

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is the recipient of other tributes received from top music industry institutions to governments, universities and charitable and philanthropic groups.   

From helping charitable organizations raise funds (“That’s What Friends Are For”) to Broadway (“Promises, Promises”), movies (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) to scores of new recordings of his songs each year, Bacharach’s music seems to always be nearby for those in search of the “sophisticated and urban.”

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