from Sunday Times (London), July 28, 2002

Only As Old As His Fans Feel

At 74, Burt Bacharach is the youngest swinger in town, writes Rachel Devine.

Any songwriter will tell you that there is one song, above all others, that they wish they had written. A lyrical masterpiece with the perfect chord progression, or a piano refrain of which Beethoven would have been proud. The question is, does Burt Bacharach, arguably the world's greatest living song composer, ever wish he'd written, say, John Lennon's Imagine, or Sweet Thing by Van Morrison? Unlikely. After all, Bacharach has penned 52 top 40 hits for singers such as Dionne Warwick and Gene Pitney. Is it really possible to improve on Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head, I Say A Little Prayer, Walk On By and What's New Pussycat?

Even so, one can't help but feel the king of easy listening must hanker after a bit of good old rock 'n' roll, the one genre that he managed to completely bypass in his 40-year career. His songs are more likely to get the pan pipe treatment than be used to advertise jeans or beer.

Bacharach and his longtime writing partner, the lyricist Hal David, started out at the Famous Paramount Music Company in the 1950s writing songs for easy listening greats like Marty Robbins (The Story of My Life) and Perry Como (Magic Moments). He wrote 39 American hits for Warwick in the space of 10 years and he has written hits for Tom Jones, The Carpenters, Elton John and Aretha Franklin.

But Bacharach songs are more than just elevator music. In the 1990s, acts such as Oasis, Massive Attack and REM cited Bacharach as a massive influence and helped make the silver-topped pensioner extremely cool again. Recently he collaborated with rap star Dr Dre on a hip hop tune, had a cameo role in the second Austin Powers movie (Austin Powers in Goldmember was supposedly inspired by Bacharach's The Look of Love after Mike Myers heard it when he was driving home one night) and has even been writing songs for Pop Idol winner Will Young.

Which might explain why the average age of his audiences has dramatically dropped from 60 to about 25. At 74, Bacharach's renewed popularity has given him a new lease of life. These days he still manages about 60 concerts worldwide a year. Now, more than ever, people want to hear the classics from the horse's mouth.

Tomorrow's show, then, is a rare chance to see Bacharach live at an age when most living legends put their feet up and bask in the glory of past achievements. For now, the old swinger is still adding to his.

Burt Bacharach will be at the Playhouse, Edinburgh tomorrow (0870 6063424)