Remembering Burt Bacharach

Legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach sadly died a couple of days ago, and to mark his passing I thought I’d run through the UK number ones that he (and his partner Hal David) were responsible for. There are seven in total, by acts ranging from Perry Como, to Cilla Black, to Bobbie Gentry, among his fifty-two Top 40 hits.

And, because the charts never play fair, we can only give such timeless classics as (deep breath)… ‘Walk on By’, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’, ‘The Look of Love’, ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’, ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’, ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’ and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’… a shout-out now, because they never made the top spot. Still, we have a fair few good ones to be working with, and there’s a link to my original posts in the song titles.

‘The Story of My Life’ – #1 in 1958 for Michael Holliday

Bacharach’s first big hit, originally written for Marty Robbins. Quite jaunty, very whistle-heavy, and not too much of an indication of what was to come… No matter, for a monster hit was just around the corner.

‘Magic Moments’ – #1 in 1958 for Perry Como

Very few songwriters manage to replace themselves at number one, but Bacharach and David managed it with their first two hits. Crooner Perry Como knocked Holliday off the top, and stayed there for eight weeks. More whistling, but still it’s a song that has seeped into our collective conscience. Anyway, these were just the warm-up for a run of all-time classics in the 1960s.

‘Tower of Strength’ – #1 in 1961 for Frankie Vaughan

I’d put ‘Tower of Strength’ in my Top 5 songs I’ve discovered since starting this blog. It’s a real barnstormer, in which Frankie Vaughan spends two minutes just letting rip. He’s the star here, but he needed good source material. In the US it was hit for Gene McDaniels, in a much more laidback version.

‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – #1 in 1964 for Cilla Black

Cilla’s version of Dionne Warwick’s original gave her the biggest female hit of the entire decade in the UK. I’m not one to indulge in idle gossip, but… Apparently Warwick hated the fact that Cilla Black got the bigger hit out of this song, claiming that had she so much as coughed on the original then Cilla would have done the same on her cover version. Bacharach was a big fan, however, personally arguing for Cilla to record it ahead of Shirley Bassey.

‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me – #1 in 1964 for Sandie Shaw

Another song originally recorded by Dionne Warwick – Bacharach and David’s muse throughout their long careers – though her version wasn’t released until 1968. Instead it was a bare-footed seventeen-year-old who took it to #1 in late-1964, launching the career of one of the biggest British singers of the decade. It wasn’t a hit in the US until Naked Eyes’ new-wave version in 1983.

‘Make It Easy on Yourself’ – #1 in 1965 for The Walker Brothers

The classiest #1 single ever? Never has Bacharach and David’s effortlessly slick songwriting had a cooler delivery. This was another one first recorded by Dionne Warwick, before being shelved. Along came The Walker Brothers a few years later, to give the songwriting duo their 6th UK chart-topper.

‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ – #1 in 1969 for Bobbie Gentry

The last #1 hit for Bacharach and David (in the UK, at least) was also one of the 1960’s final chart-toppers. After the first two, fluffier songs on this list, the duo settled into a run of songs detailing exquisite heartbreak. Towers of strength, things being there to remind you, people not having hearts… And then this, a classic anti-love song dressed up in trademark B&D gloss. Plus, one of the best ryhming couplets in pop music history…

Burt Bacharach, May 28th 1928 – February 8th 2023


10 thoughts on “Remembering Burt Bacharach

  1. Such a great songwriter! He lived to be 94, wrote a lot of hits, and dated Angie Dickinson! Pretty good life…it’s still sad he passed away.
    I was never a Warwick fan…I do like Cilla Black from what I’ve heard from her. I like her voice.

    • He certainly lived a good life, to a good age. Cilla Black was a decent singer, but Dusty Springfield did the definitive version of ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ for me. Any version of a song by Dusty end up being definitive in my book!

  2. A very good tribute, thanks, and a reminder of how timeless those songs are. They appeal to everyone across the generations.

  3. Bacharach was a giant towering over the 60s in terms of what was called Easy Listening. Sophisticated melodies that appeal to all ages. I know cos I was obsessively loved so many of his songs without 6 year old me knowing a thing about Burt – but i adored I Just Dont Know What To Do, Anyone Who Had A Heart, Walk On By, Trains and Boats and Planes and the 4th record i ever bought was Bobbie Gentrys.

    Dionne was a bit miffed about Cilla at the time, cant blame her, she had loads of classic songs not getting pushed in the UK. I saw her on her last UK tour as she was trying to drum up enthusiasm for a Dionne Warwick life story potential musical. Problem was the only bit of drama in it was the tiff about the Brit gals nicking her songs – and she was pretty much ok about it by then. Now, a bacharach n david musical life story would have been fun – dionne would still be a major part, the farce of Lost Horizon film musical ruining his career a proper bit of drama. So bad its rated as one of the worst films that you must see. I saw it at the cinema 50 years ago and rather enjoyed it. Or rather the cast and the songs. Its not dated well and is on Youtube in all its glory. 🙂

    • It’s a shame that ‘easy listening’ is a bit of a slur these days (maybe it was already back then, I don’t know) but he was the master.

      As for Dionne W, I know sharing songs around was more common in those days, but she seems to have been unlucky. Half the songs listed in my post were originally recorded by her, and often shelved until someone had come along with their own hit version. I wonder why?

      • Easy listening became a slur to Rock fans in the 70s who regarded anything that wasnt a 15minute progrock album adventure as beneath them. They were wrong then and they remain wrong. Ive never cared whats cool and trendy and still love much new music.. 🙂

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