from Sunday Morning on CBS, Feb. 10, 2002

Coming of age: Mr. Burt Bacharach

Career and life of composer and musician Burt Bacharach

Announcer: It's SUNDAY MORNING on CBS. And here again is Charles Osgood.

(Audio excerpt from song)

CHARLES OSGOOD, host: There can't be any doubt who wrote that popular standby. It's Mr. Burt Bacharach, of course. As part of our monthlong Coming of Age series, Richard Schlesinger has a profile of one of our most prolific songwriters still going strong.

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on a TV show)

RICHARD SCHLESINGER reporting: (Voiceover) There's Burt Bacharach back in the '60s making a name for himself with music as lush as shag carpet, as unforgettable as the era itself.

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on a TV show; footage of Bacharach conducting)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Since then, he's gone from black and white to gray, and built a career that's solid gold.

(Footage of Bacharach conducting)

Mr. BURT BACHARACH (Songwriter): There are a couple of songs I heard and thought, 'Boy, that's pretty--that's good. that's good,' and then realized, 'Jesus, I wrote it,' you know.

(Footage of Bacharach conducting)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) He's written a lot in his 73 years, and he's still giving concerts with a repertoire too large for him to measure. Do you know how many songs you've written?

Mr. BACHARACH: Mm-mm. Nor do I know how many hits I've had. I'm not a good counter. That's not so important.

(Footage of Bacharach at rehearsal; childhood photographs of Bacharach)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Well, it is kind of important.

Mr. BACHARACH: Where's the kielbasa? Do you got a kielbasa?

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) His output rivals Mozart's in quantity at least, so here's our count. More than 500 compositions published, recorded by almost 1,200 artists, 66 top 40 hits, five Grammys and three Oscars. Not bad for a kid from Queens who started playing piano just to make his mother happy, who didn't even want to go into the music business.

Mr. BACHARACH: I thought I'd probably wind up in the men's clothing business. That's where my dad had affiliations.

SCHLESINGER: You thought you'd end up in the men's clothing business? I mean, you're a well-dressed guy and--and very stylish, but...

Mr. BACHARACH: No, I'm not a well-dressed guy. No, I thought I'd...

SCHLESINGER: How did you think you'd end up in the men's clothing business?

Mr. BACHARACH: Because I thought it was the easiest, most accessible job that my dad might introduce me.

(Footage of Bacharach in rehearsal)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) He chose music after listening to the songs of the day and deciding it would be easy to write them.

Mr. BACHARACH: I mean, they were really ordinary, familiar and I thought this could be a snap, you know. And I was wrong. I did really, really bad in New York. And I wrote--I wrote some very ordinary songs.

(Excerpt from "The Blob")

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) He didn't exactly burst onto the music scene. He oozed into the business in the '50s with compositions like this score for a low-budget horror film.

(Excerpt from "The Blob")

SCHLESINGER: What do you hate that you wrote?

Mr. BACHARACH: Well, songs you wouldn't hear, like "Peggy's in the Pantry."

SCHLESINGER: How does that go?

Mr. BACHARACH: Oh, I wouldn't know it.

(Footage of jukebox)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) It wasn't easy to find, but this is "Peggy's in the Pantry."

(Audio excerpt from "Peggy's in the Pantry")

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) It is one Bacharach song you've never heard of, which is just fine with the composer.

(Excerpt from audio of "Peggy's in the Pantry")

Mr. BACHARACH: A dog is a dog. You know, you try to forget about it.

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on cabaret show)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Before he wrote songs worth remembering, Bacharach had one very important fan, film legend Marlene Dietrich. He was the orchestra leader for her cabaret shows.

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) It was a very different kind of music. I mean, you know, (singing) 'Falling in love again,' you know.

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Her introductions made the young composer hard to forget.

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on cabaret show)

SCHLESINGER: She introduces you...

Mr. BACHARACH: Oh, yeah.

SCHLESINGER: everybody's composer.

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on cabaret show)

Mr. BACHARACH: And then she'd just scare me when she went, 'Mr. Burt Bacharach!'

(Vintage footage of Burt Bacharach conducting on cabaret show)

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) I used to be looking at my shoes when she did that. I remember coming out of a stage door and--and all these fans were waiting for Marlene. And they'd say, 'Marlene, can we have your autograph?' And she said, 'You want his autograph.' And everybody goes, 'Who is he?' She was very possessive of me. She used to say, 'Nobody marry you, Burt, over my dead body.'

(Footage of Bacharach in rehearsal; photographs of Paula Stewart, Angie Dickinson and Carole Bayer Sager; footage of Bacharach with his family)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Dietrich was very wrong. Bacharach's been married four times to four beautiful women: singer Paula Stewart, actress Angie Dickinson, songwriter Carole Bayer Sager and today he's married to Jane Bacharach, a former ski instructor with whom he has two children.

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) I don't think I was any bargain to be married to at that time, or even now.

SCHLESINGER: Why? I mean, what makes you difficult? Do you yell at people or...

Mr. BACHARACH: No, never. Never, never, never, never, never.

SCHLESINGER: Are you self-centered?

Mr. BACHARACH: You bet. But I think that's part of my work, you know.

(Vintage footage of Bacharach conducting on a TV show)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) While his marital life frequently derailed, his musical life finally got on track in the early '60s, when his songs began wearing out the path to the top of the charts.

Mr. BACHARACH: With every song, it became more possibilities, more chances.

SCHLESINGER: It was well past the "Peggy's in the Pantry" phase of your career.

Mr. BACHARACH: Well past the--well past, Richard, yeah.

(Vintage footage of Dionne Warwick performing; photographs of Bacharach conducting)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) The music was easy listening, but it was tough writing. His lyricist in the '60s, Hal David, and singer Dionne Warwick helped, but Bacharach still remembers times when it was all up to him.

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) Those were the moments. They were killer moments. They were tense, they were tough, limited time, expensive, big orchestra sitting there. I'd get stuck. I'd written on--at different times with the orchestration. What was wrong? Something wasn't working. And I'd break the band for 10 minutes. I'd go in the bathroom--into the men's room at the recording studio, and think and try to hear everything in my head. Nine out of 10 times, I'd come out of there with a solution. It's strange it worked there, but...

SCHLESINGER: Some of your best work was done in the men's room?

Mr. BACHARACH: You go in there and you hear the whole thing in your head.

(Footage of Bacharach performing; excerpt from movie)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) The men's room might not be the obvious place to work on music, but it worked for Bacharach. His catalog of hits grew fatter with almost every new release. In a way, he was writing the soundtracks for countless personal romances, so it seemed only natural for him to start writing real soundtracks.

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) Got my first movie at that time, which was "What's New Pussycat?," "Casino Royale." Suddenly I was hot, you might say, in the movie scores, and then "Butch Cassidy." And it's a great time. Winning Academy Awards, wow, you know.

SCHLESINGER: Great time. That's got to be one of the understatements.

Mr. BACHARACH: Great, great, great times.

(Footage of Bacharach and Schlesinger talking)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) His music from that time became so popular it is still almost impossible to avoid.

I mean, when you go into the dentist's office or into an elevator, what--what's it like hearing your music?

Mr. BACHARACH: Good. It's great. Great. I mean--I mean, just don't call my music elevator music, because it really isn't, but call it anything you want. Call it elevator--call it...

SCHLESINGER: Have you ever heard a Muzak version of your--of your music that you like?


(Footage of Bacharach rehearsing)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) By the mid-'70s, Bacharach and his music had faded into the background. He still wrote the occasional hit, but pop music had become edgier, and for a while, Bacharach seemed a little too smooth.

There was this period where you were turning out hit song after hit song after hit song, and then there was this drought. Wh--what was that like? I mean, what is it like to be so hot for so long, and then all of a sudden, be on the sidelines?

Mr. BACHARACH: Well, it feels bad.

SCHLESINGER: No kidding?


(Footage of Bacharach rehearsing; excerpt from "Austin Powers")

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) The man who was such a symbol of the '60s seemed like he was stuck there. That could be the end for most performers. But it turned out to be a new beginning for Burt Bacharach. When comedian Mike Myers, playing the role of a '60s-era James Bond knock-off, needed a short cut to the culture of that time, who better?

(Excerpt from "Austin Powers")

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) I mean, do you consider yourself emblematic of that era?

Mr. BACHARACH: Oh, yeah. And I think I'm kind of emblematic of this period right now, too, you know, in a different way.

(Excerpt from "Austin Powers")

Mr. MIKE MYERS (Comedian): He just has it, whatever that is. When he came to the set, he just came in with a sweater tied around his neck and, 'Hi, everybody. How's it going? How's it going? Great.' All the girls went crazy for him.

(Footage of Bacharach with his wife)

Mr. MYERS: (Voiceover) I'd loved to be looked at like that for 10 minutes.

And I think Burt's had a lifetime of that.

(Footage of Bacharach conducting)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Bacharach made his way back to the public eye, thanks to Mike Myers, and soon he was back on the pop music charts, thanks to a most unlikely partner, British punk rocker Elvis Costello.

(Footage of Costello and Bacharach performing together and getting photographed together)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) Bacharach and Costello, a lot of people thought it sounded funny. The two of them sure looked like music's odd couple, but it worked for Burt and for Elvis.

It didn't take any getting used to at all for you?

Mr. ELVIS COSTELLO (Singer): Not in the sli--only in the sense that--that I--that I--that it was like, 'Could I really?'

(Footage of Costello and Bacharach performing)

Mr. COSTELLO: (Voiceover) I never really associated him, as some people seem to, with easy listening or anything like that. I--I--I...

SCHLESINGER: You--you didn't?

Mr. COSTELLO: No. No, it's...

SCHLESINGER: Because that's so much what he is to a lot of people.

(Footage of Bacharach performing)

Mr. COSTELLO: (Voiceover) I think that's a complete mistake. I mean, I think that people who think that there is anything soft, or anything less than felt about his composition, really haven't got their ears on right--the right way around. You know, because...

SCHLESINGER: It's just--it's odd to hear Elvis Costello talking about Burt Bacharach this way.

Mr. COSTELLO: Well, not to me it ain't.

(Footage of Costello and Bacharach performing)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) So how do you characterize Bacharach?

Mr. COSTELLO: (Voiceover) One of the great composers, I think. And that's because of the passion that he feels for the music. To my ear, the strength of his composition all along has been it's a constantly renewable source.

People are always getting their heart broken. They always want a song.

(Footage of Costello and Bacharach performing; Bacharach conducting)

SCHLESINGER: (Voiceover) And for most of the last 40 years, there's almost always been a Bacharach song on the charts for breaking up to or making up to; songs that are familiar, sometimes memorable and have endured as well as any pop music ever has.

Mr. BACHARACH: (Voiceover) I just want to play music that makes people feel; it makes people feel good. I'm not so interested in what was; I'm interested in now.

As long as it feels good to keep doing concerts and keep writing music, I will do it.

(Footage of Bacharach conducting)

(Graphic of SUNDAY MORNING sun logo)

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