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Burt Bacharach: A legend 9 decades in the making

If we aspire to be anything, it’s to still command the stage at age 90 like singer, songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach. He will command our stage at the Embarcadero this August with his classics that span the American songbook. While you’re dusting off your Bacharach records, we compiled a list of some facts you may not know about this musical legend.

1. You’d never know it today, but Bacharach’s first real passion was sports. His goal was to play football professionally, but his mother, a piano teacher, insisted he take music lessons on the side. It wasn’t until he reached high school and realized his piano playing abilities were making him popular at school and local functions that he decided to pursue music professionally. After studying it extensively in college, he joined the Army and would often serve as a primary source of entertainment on base, playing frequent concerts at the Officer’s Club on Governer Island and around Fort Dix.

2. Bacharach preferred to learn his craft in the audiences of Manhattan jazz clubs instead of classrooms. He was never shy about his distaste for music lessons, despite growing up with formal musical training. He would often use a fake ID to gain access to 52nd street nightclubs and listen to such bebop legends as Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie - jazz innovators whose styles would later have a heavy influence on his songwriting.

3. Bacharach is considered a giant of “easy listening,” the musical genre best served with cocktails, a beautiful view and a cheese board, but Bacharach has been hesitant to embrace that label. It may be music as easy on the ears as a sunset on the bay is on the eyes but creating it is anything but easy. Bacharach’s precise arrangements, quick meter shifts, and large selection of instruments have a distinct style often referred to as the “Bacharach Sound.”

Bacharach himself explains:

I didn't want to make the songs the same way as they'd been done, so I'd split vocals and instrumentals and try to make it interesting ... For me, it's about the peaks and valleys of where a record can take you. You can tell a story and be able to be explosive one minute, then get quiet as kind of a satisfying resolution."

4. In 2016, Bacharach composed and arranged his first original score in 16 years for the film A Boy Called Po. The entire 30-minute score was recorded in just two days at Capitol Studios -- which is no small feat for someone at 88 years old. Bacharach saw the film, a true story about a child with Autism and decided he wanted to write the score for it, in tribute to his late daughter Nikki -- who had gone undiagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and died by suicide at age 40.


Bacharach has filled American households with his innovative music for decades and the San Diego Symphony is excited to welcome him back to our Bayside Summer Nights stage this August.


This post was written by digital media coordinator Stephanie Zumwalt and marketing assistant Kelly Hillock. 


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