RIP Burt Bacharach

When I was 8 years old, my dad worked at a paper mill in Toledo, near the Oregon coast. We didn’t stay there long, but the town made quite an impression on me. During one summer’s day I remember a neighbor a few houses away kept blaring a song from his backyard. It was titled “What’s New Pussycat?” I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a Tom Jones hit written by Burt Bacharach. I couldn’t understand the song exactly. I thought the man was in love with his pet cat.

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Later, when I was 10 years old, dad worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. I loved Bremerton’s damp salt air and rolling, green hills. Those were turbulent times for our family, but I distinctly remember sitting at our small dining room table right next to the kitchen while my mom prepared dinner for us five kids. She had her radio on and there was a song titled “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” The song made me happy and at the time I didn’t know it was sung by Dionne Warwick, who possessed a perfect singing voice.

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Eventually I figured out the man behind many of the wonderful songs I had been hearing on mom’s radio were written by Burt Bacharach. Much later still I learned he collaborated with lyricist Hal (Harold) David and they both won Oscar Awards for the song, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” which was featured in the movie, “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.”


Later I learned to play a few chords on my guitar and ‘Raindrops’ is something I practiced, with mixed results. It is perhaps my favorite Bacharach tune, although there are so many good ones that it’s hard to choose.

To me, Bacharach epitomized the sound of the 60s. Not Elvis, not The Beatles, not the Rolling Stones. Bacharach.

He wrote the score for the Bond spoof movie, “Casino Royale” and to me that movie summed up the 1960s. It was packed with stars including David Niven, Orson Welles, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, and Woody Allen when he was still funny (and not the pathetic worm he later became). Listen to the main theme of carefree happiness played by Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass that tied the movie together:

Yes, I know Burt thought Trump was unfit to be president, but let’s put politics aside for a moment and honor a man who wrote music that casted rays of light and happiness on an unhappy world.

Rest in peace, Burt.

— Ben Garrison


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