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Burt Bacharach Dead at 94: Listen to His Best Songs from Movies and TV

The Oscar-winning composer was one of the most celebrated creators of music for movies and TV ever.

Burt Bacharach at in-store appearance for Burt Bacharach Booksigning for Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music, Barnes and Noble Book Store, New York, NY May 6, 2013. Photo By: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Burt Bacharach in 2013.

Everett Collection

The list of songwriters who don’t sing but who you can still recognize on sight is a short one. Burt Bacharach, the three-time Academy Award winner who died at 94 on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles, was the epitome of the celebrity songwriter. With his thin, angular face, trademark turtlenecks, and thatch of gray-white hair, he was a visual embodiment of effortless mid-20th century cool. “Easy listening” in the flesh.

Bacharach’s best songs are iconic. None more so than the Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (for which he also won the Academy Award for Best Original Score — he’d later win his third Oscar, Best Original Song, for “Arthur’s Theme”). If there’s a song from that era with tinkly piano and a chorus of “na-na-na,” you’re probably listening to a Bacharach song. But the “easy listening” label attached to him, and to songs like “What the World Needs Now,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” and “This Guy’s in Love with You” — the latter two of which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart — was deceptive.

Bacharach’s songs, with the immortal contribution of lyricist Hal David, are about loneliness and longing, bouncy enough to encourage surface-level reads that ignore the profound ironies that often lie within. Anyone who hears “Walk on By,” his signature song for one of his greatest ongoing collaborators, Dionne Warwick, can’t help be struck by its mercurial depths. Was Bacharach taken seriously enough as a songwriter? There’s an argument to say that he wasn’t, that the popularity of his work obscured its artistry. How the dickens was Bacharach never recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors?

IndieWire will not overlook him as well. His contributions to movies and TV of the past 60 years can’t be praised enough. But here are his eight best music moments worthy of your attention.

With contributions from Tom Brueggemann, Steve Greene, and Dana Harris-Bridson.

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