Wow, what a great run Burt Bacharach had for his 94+ years on the planet. So many wonderful songs, so many of them performed in diverse ways by varied performers. These aren’t intended to be the “best” (as indeed is the case for all these lists) but these are the tracks I’ve been reaching for upon hearing the news of Maestro Bacharach’s passing – most of them featuring Hal David lyrics.
1 ) “Walk On By” as performed by Dionne Warwick
This list can’t not start with the voice of so many Bacharach melodies, Dionne Warwick. If I was going for hipness, I’d choose a more obscure example, but the definitive version of a definitive song (indeed one could make the case for this as the one track that most epitomizes Bacharach’s sound) isn’t a bad choice either.
2 ) “I Say A Little Prayer” as performed by Aretha Franklin
Dionne Warwick’s version of this song is lovely, but my goodness does Aretha turn it into one of the most soulful performances in the history of animals making sounds (I’m not limiting to just people).
3 ) “What the World Needs Now is Love” as performed by Fontella Bass
There are lots of lovely versions of this song. I happen to be particularly fond of this jazz-meets-gospel-meets-whatever-Bacharach’s-classification-would-be performance by the great vocalist Fontella Bass, accompanied on trumpet by her ex-husband, Lester Bowie.
4 ) “The Look of Love” as performed by Dusty Springfield
The original version of this song also happens to be one of Dusty’s most compelling performances.
5 ) “A House Is Not A Home” as performed by Luther Vandross
Again, Dionne did wonderful work with this song. But for anyone of my generation, there is only one go-to performance of this song, and that’s Luther’s emotional, dramatic tour de force.
6 ) “God Give Me Strength” as performed by Charles Lloyd
Dang the Elvis Costello version is great too, a highlight of his wonderful collaboration with Bacharach, but in a proverbial coin-toss, I chose this soulful instrumental version, possibly my favorite ballad performance by the great Charles Lloyd.
7 ) “There’s Always Something There to Remind Me” as performed by Lou Johnson
I’m a child of the ‘80s so I’m fond of Naked Eyes’ version too, only discovering the original, Bacharach-produced version much later.
8 ) “Alfie” as performed by Stevie Wonder
The intro is a little cheesily-produced but hang in there for a wonderfully soulful harmonica performance of this gorgeous melody.
9 ) “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” as performed by Christopher Cross
When I was a kid and this catchy song was playing in every department store, I didn’t even know who Burt Bacharach was, and it was only in my 20s (long after I found out who he was) that I realized he (along with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager) had penned this one. I still love it.
10 ) “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” as performed by Ronald Isley
Did you think this song was goofy? Listen to this. Trust me.