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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Burt Bacharach: Genius

The word 'genius' is often overused and as a result it has lost a lot of its meaning. There are very, very few people to whom the epithet can accurately be applied: but songwriter Burt Bacharach, responsible for writing some of the greatest popular songs of all time, is surely one of them. Bacharach is in Britain to promote his new album and on Wednesday he performed at the BBC's Electric Proms in London. If you weren't there, or missed the tv recording, you can watch the concert, in full, at the BBC Electric Proms website. If you haven't seen the concert yet, you're in for a real treat: it's amazing.

Above you can watch a tribute to Burt and his great songs, from December 1967. Among those performing are Liza Minelli, Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66, Wes Montgomery, Herb Alpert (the compere, and brilliant trumpet player) and of course the maestro Burt Bacharach himself. Enjoy!

p.s. in addition to being a musical genius Bacharach is fiercely critical of the Iraq war. What a star!


jock mctrousers said...

Thanks for that. I needed a reason to be cheerful after your previous 2 posts. The early sixties threw up so many songwriters with a real gift for melody; maybe it was something to do with the astrological lineup but, whatever, the well seemed to dry up by the early 70s. Being born in the 50s, and coming to awareness in the early sixties, I just assumed that it would always be that way - alas, no! BB was one of the most inspired - he never treaded water, just rehashing cliches, but took from jazz, Latin, pop and always found a new catchy tune with a unique harmony that just seemed to come out of the blue. My favourite version of one of his songs is Arthur Lee and Love's ' My Little Red Book', which, admittedly, took some liberties with the original which Burt is on record as having been unimpressed with. Dionne Warwick's and Aretha Franklyn's versions of 'Say a Little Prayer' come a close second.

jock mctrousers said...

Ohhh... wonderful!!! I've just watched the show. Most so-called songwriters over the last thirty years would have trouble stretching their material to five minutes, much less a full show like this, and even then he had to compress it into 30 sec snippets. The singers were universally magnificent - even Burt's own singing had some charm. I'd have to add Dusty Springfield's ' Wishin' and Hopin', and Gene Pitney's ' 24 Hours from Tulsa' to my joint 2nd favourites - I couldn't choose between any of these - and I'm still reluctant to relegate the rest to joint 3rd. As he said at the end, I didn't know he wrote any of his first four hits - 'Magic Moments' was a real surprise.

Neil Clark said...

thanks very much jock, I'm pleased you enjoyed it- it's a terrific clip.
The performers were magnificent and I agree that Burt's own signing has great charm.
His songs- and their great melodies encapsulate the optimism and the spirit of the era when they were written.
It's no coincidence that there was so much great music around in the mid-late 1960s. It was a wonderfully creative time- a time when people thought everything was possible. Where did all that sunshine- and optimism go? Well, Burt B penned a song recently which included the lyric:

"There was a song/I remember/Said 'What the world needs now...'/Where is the love/Where did it go/Who broke our hearts/'Cause we need to know/Where are the dreams/That we once knew..."

We know who 'broke our hearts'- it was the neoliberals and neocons who weren't happy with the way things were going in the 60s and 70s and wanted to ditch 'managed capitalism' and the mixed economy and revert to a more aggressive capitalist model. What the world desperately needs now is 'love, sweet love', but we ain't going to get it with the current neoliberal/neocon gang in charge.