Pop composer Bacharach pens first lyrics of career
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – It could be just what the world needs
now — Burt Bacharach writing lyrics.
The legendary, 77-year-old composer has found his voice in
a politically charged album “At This Time” that features his
first lyrics ever in a nearly 50-year career creating some of
pop music’s best-known love songs.
“You could say, ‘How does a guy who has written love songs
his entire life suddenly decide to rock the boat?”‘ Bacharach
says about the album that will be released internationally on
October 24, with a U.S. release on November 1.
“I had to do it. This is very personal to me,” he said of
his first solo album in 15 years.
Challenged by his producer to take risks, Bacharach
responded with songs set to hip-hop beats with lyrics,
co-written with Tonio K., expressing nostalgia over bygone days
and frustration with U.S. political leaders.
Bacharach, an icon of swinging 1960s sophistication and
winner of three Oscars and six Grammys, poured out catchy music
for over 50 Top 40 hits including “What The World Needs Now Is
Love,” “Walk On By,” “Make It Easy On Yourself” and “Alfie.”
He had left the words to his collaborators, most notably
Hal David and his own former wife, Carole Bayer Sager.
With young children, Oliver, 12, and Raleigh, 9, from his
fourth marriage, and college-aged son Cristopher from his union
with Sager on his mind, Bacharach said he was inspired to speak
“I thought that I had to speak lyrically this time as well
as musically,” he told Reuters, sitting in an easy chair in a
Park Avenue hotel suite. “I thought that was very important
because I couldn’t have somebody else write these lyrics.”
Bacharach’s words may not match the quality of his music,
with urbane melodies and orchestrations that mark this work and
his past triumphs. Yet the lyrics are heartfelt and direct.
“As I wrote, I wrote musically. Then I started hearing
words. These were things I heard, they grew out of the music,”
Vocalists on the album include Elvis Costello and Rufus
Wainwright. Rap impresario Dr. Dre provided some drum loops.
“It’s very streety, as streety as I can make it,” Bacharach
said about the hip-hop influence.
‘STOP THE CLOCK’
Titles include the opening track, “Please Explain,” that
laments “Where is the love, where did it go;” the second cut,
“Where Did It Go?” urges “Stop the clock, make it stop. Where
is that world, where did it go?” and the most stridently
political number, “Who Are These People?” sung by Costello.
That song, expressing disillusionment with the war in Iraq,
forcefully asks, “Who are these people that keep telling us
lies and how did these people get control of our lives and
who’ll stop the violence ’cause it’s out of control? Make ‘em
“Stuff just kept going more wrong and more wrong here as I
was writing,” explained Bacharach, still looking youthful in a
blue sweat suit accentuating his bright blue eyes.
Bacharach, who projected an image of the Hollywood good
life in the 1960s and ’70s during his marriage to glamorous
actress Angie Dickinson, told of a political turning point that
sparked his anger.
“I heard (then U.S. Secretary of State) Colin Powell tell
the United Nations there are weapons of mass destruction. I
totally believed him. I love this guy. He’s like a hero. This
was such a bad, bad blemish mark on his life, that he was so
“Then we go into Iraq. It looked like the heroic, right
thing to do. It was the wrong thing to do. There was fabricated
information. There are no weapons of mass destruction.”
During the throes of 1960s antiwar activism, Bacharach was
a political bystander.
“I never was a political person in my life. I wrote songs
during Vietnam, not about Vietnam. I was just writing love
songs. Leading my own life in my own insulated world.”
Bacharach branched out musically, writing film scores for
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), which had the hit
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” and the 1981 movie
“Arthur” which also featured a hit song.
In recent years, Bacharach teamed up with other artists.
His 1998 collaboration with Costello, “Painted From Memory,”
earned him a Grammy for “I Still Have That Other Girl.” In 2003
he hit Billboard’s top R&B/Hip-Hop album chart with an album he
made of his songs sung by Ronald Isley.
In the new CD, Bacharach sings about his personal
reflections on “Where Did It Go?”
“It’s not like your normal, ‘I am angry, I protest’ song.
There’s a groove going on. It’s kind of cookin’ along on a nice
groove. And I’m saying like ‘Wow’ in the middle, a little bit
of a surprise for a statement I wanted to make. It became very
heartfelt,” said Bacharach, who said he cried doing the vocal.
“Who knows how this will be accepted or not accepted,” he
said. “Is it the best album I’ve ever done? Maybe.
“I hope it has the impact of making some people think and
feel. Because I do believe a lot of music that’s out there is
like ear candy and you don’t necessarily feel too much.”