Diane Warren on Burt Bacharach: ‘Every songwriter idolized him’
Diane Warren is the prolific songwriter behind such pop smashes as Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” and Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, she’s been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards and 14 Oscars — together with a nod for authentic tune at subsequent month’s ninety fifth Academy Awards with “Applause,” from “Tell It Like a Woman” — and been named ASCAP’s songwriter of the yr six instances. Here, she remembers the life and work of her fellow songwriter Burt Bacharach, who died Wednesday at age 94.
Burt Bacharach created one thing that didn’t exist earlier than him — a musical language that was all his personal. It begins with these melodies, which had been not like anything you’d ever heard, with the weird time signatures and the distinctive harmonic selections.
I can keep in mind once I was little, from my earliest reminiscence, these songs simply seeped into my life: “Close to You.” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” “This Guy’s in Love With You.”
“Alfie” is possibly my favourite of all time. There’s nothing that’s ever been written by anybody within the historical past of individuals writing songs that’s nearly as good as that. And let’s give Hal David credit score: the wedding of these genius melodies with David’s lyrical genius? Unmatched.
Think about a few of the traces in “Alfie.” “And if only fools are kind, Alfie / Then I guess it is wise to be cruel.” How cool is that? “And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie / What will you lend on an old golden rule?” It’s so easy however so profound.
This is a very vital factor: Bacharach’s music was super-complex, however you might sing alongside to it. Take “I Say a Little Prayer.” You’re not considering, Wow, this has a 5/4 bar. You’re considering, This simply feels proper. It was simply pure, meant to be. He took one thing subtle and made it so easy that anyone may sing alongside to it. That’s not simple.
The chord modifications, the place he went melodically, it was by no means the place you anticipated it to go however at all times the place you needed it go. And when it did, it was like, Oh, this couldn’t have gone anyplace else. But solely somebody like Bacharach may take you there.
Another favourite of mine is “Walk on By.” That tune actually influenced me as a result of I’ve written quite a lot of songs about that factor the place you don’t need to present your emotions. Is it completely satisfied? Is it unhappy? “Walk on By” is the proper model of that. And, I imply, Dionne Warwick’s vocal — simply sensible. Or Dusty Springfield on “The Look of Love”? It’s pop perfection. All these songs had been.
And they created careers. Look at Dionne. Look at Herb Alpert, who wasn’t actually generally known as a singer earlier than “This Guy’s in Love With You.”
These are the songs I grew up with. I grew up in L.A., within the Valley, when Top 40 radio actually was Top 40. They performed every part, and so many of those songs had been massive hits. I consistently heard them on the radio. But additionally: Remember that film “The Blob”? I simply discovered a number of years in the past that Burt Bacharach wrote the theme to “The Blob.” And it sounds completely Burt Bacharach-y if you hearken to it.
The different factor is, these songs had nice ideas. “I Say a Little Prayer.” “One Less Bell to Answer” — what an effective way of claiming, I’m actually completely satisfied that I don’t have this man in my life, however oh wait, that’s sort of a bummer too. Or “A House Is Not a Home.” Think about how genius that’s. No one ever checked out it that means.
The trick to writing an excellent tune is taking a look at if from an angle that nobody’s checked out it earlier than. And Bacharach and David, they did that on a regular basis.
I didn’t know Burt properly. But in 1987 I wrote a tune with him and Carole Bayer Sager, with whom he additionally wrote some traditional, sensible songs. The tune we wrote collectively was referred to as “Heartbreak of Love,” which Dionne Warwick did with June Pointer. I keep in mind I used to be so nervous as a result of I used to be gonna be within the room with certainly one of my idols. I went as much as his place three or 4 instances. He was very methodical: “Let’s go to this part again.” I’ve no consideration span, so I keep in mind that being onerous for me. But he was a super-nice man — appeared actually cool and humble.
I liked when he sang his songs. Obviously, somebody like Dionne or Luther Vandross would’ve sung them higher. But there was one thing stunning and genuine about listening to him do his songs. It captured one thing that couldn’t be captured by somebody who didn’t write them.
The signal of an excellent tune is that it may be interpreted many various methods. Think about “Say a Little Prayer.” Dionne does the pop model, then Aretha does the soul model. Or “Always Something There to Remind Me.” Dionne has successful with it, after which Naked Eyes, which was an excellent document too.
You can take a tune and do it every kind of various methods, in every kind of various types — however you possibly can solely try this if the tune is nice. And with Bacharach, the songs had been at all times nice.
He was on his personal mountain. Everybody who’s a songwriter or a composer or an arranger idolized him. And there’ll by no means be one other like him.
But the music doesn’t die. That’s the great thing about the songs. They’ll at all times sound contemporary; they’ll at all times be related.
As lengthy as there are voices to sing, they’ll be singing his songs.
As informed to Times pop music critic Mikael Wood.