Burt Bacharach's musical magic is your Memorial Day YouTube project



The Pitch talked to Kansas City native Burt Bacharach this week, and we came away convinced that the Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer, who turned 85 recently, is as relevant as ever.

Not many songwriters can say that both Elvis Presley ("Any Day Now") and Elvis Costello (who made a whole album, Painted From Memory, co-written with the composer-producer-arranger) have recorded their tunes. Nor can just about anyone else claim to have worked with Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Dr. Dre (though not all at once).

So when we got done reading Bacharach's new autobiography, Anyone Who Had a Heart, and looking over the track list for his forthcoming six-disc boxed set, we naturally adjourned to YouTube. After the jump, your holiday-weekend homework: our favorite Bacharach moments online.

"Anyone Who Had a Heart"
Dionne Warwick (1963, lyrics by Hal David)

Picking out the best collaboration uniting Dionne Warwick with Bacharach and David is tricky, but you gotta start here because Warwick insisted on singing it before Bacharach and David even finished writing the song, having heard just a sample. She sight-read the recording right off the just-finished lyric sheet and turned it into a No. 8. Bacharach introduces Warwick in this clip.

"What's New, Pussycat?"
Tom Jones (1965, lyrics by Hal David)

Bacharach's first job scoring a film was What's New, Pussycat?, a comedy written by and starring a young comic named Woody Allen. Muscle-voiced Tom Jones was just the right guy to bellow it, even though the Welshman initially resisted the offer to sing what wound up becoming a No. 3 U.S. hit.

The film's producers initially balked at using the song, believing that its sudden rhythm changes were out of place in a scene set in a disco. In Anyone Who Had a Heart, Bacharach recalls wanting to take his name off the credits; then the song landed him and David their first Oscar nomination.

"What the World Needs Now Is Love"
Jackie DeShannon (1965, lyrics by Hal David)

The dawn of the Vietnam War was running through David's mind as he wrote the words for this tune, but it took him months to get the words to his own liking. Warwick, who often sang the first and definitive versions of Bacharach and David's songs, was unenthusiastic about this tune, which the songwriters presented to Jackie DeShannon 10 months later. She took the song to No. 7. Since then, more than 100 artists have recorded this song, and Bacharach sings it himself whenever he performs.

"This Guy's in Love With You"
Herb Alpert (1968, lyrics by Hal David)

Bacharach and David had this tune, originally "This Girl's in Love With You," in their "save for later" file when trumpeter Herb Alpert needed a song to serenade his wife in a TV special. The song was recorded only for the special, but demand quickly built for a commercial issue. The song wound up being the first No. 1 record for Alpert's the label Alpert co-founded, A&M Records. Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, has said, "If I could write a song half as good as 'This Guy's in Love With You' or 'Anyone Who Had a Heart,' I'd die a happy man."

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"
B.J. Thomas (1969, lyrics by Hal David)

Bacharach and David's best-known song sat atop the singles chart for four weeks and netted an Oscar for the songwriters. Bacharach came up with the tune by watching this scene from George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid over and over again. Even though the scene was shot on a clear day, Bacharach couldn't get the phrase "Raindrops keep fallin' on my head" out of his own noggin; David filled out the rest. The studio wanted Ray Stevens ("Everything Is Beautiful") to sing the tune, but he hated both the film and the song.

"On My Own"
Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald (1986, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager)

While Bacharach will always be associated with David, who died last September at the age of 91, he scored several hits with his wife of nine years, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. The two topped the charts with "Arthur's Theme," "That's What Friends Are For" and this duet.

"God Give Me Strength"
Elvis Costello (1996, lyrics by Costello)

Costello and Bacharach teamed up to write this tune for Alison Anders movie Grace of My Heart, assembling it over voice mails and faxes. Their growing friendship eventually resulted in the Grammy-winning album Painted From Memory . The two are now collaborating with Chuck Lorre, the mind behind Two and a Half Men, on a stage musical from the album.

"I Say a Little Prayer"
as sung by Rupert Everett in My Best Friend's Wedding (1997, lyrics by Hal David)

Dionne Warwick had a No. 4 hit in 1967 with this tune, but Bacharach has said that Aretha Franklin's recording of, from the following year, is for him the definitive take. This version splits the difference.

"I Saw a Little Prayer for You" sounds like a frothy love song, but the narrator's repeated prayers are for a boyfriend who's away to fight a war. In the liner notes for the Rhino Records Burt Bacharach anthology The Look of Love, Warwick recalls, "I approached the song from the point of view that it was written, that we were sending a message to our kids in Vietnam."

"I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself"
The White Stripes (2003, lyrics by Hal David)

Tommy Hunt's 1962 version of this song barely charted, at No. 119, but it's been covered like crazy ever since. Cameron Diaz tries in vain to get through its tricky melody in the karaoke scene in My Best Friend's Wedding, but the White Stripes made it their own on the 2003 album Elephant.

Jack White and Meg White strip down Bacharach's dense original arrangement, and the former's tormented delivery sells every second of the recording. This is not easy listening.

The video here was directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), and the woman elegantly dancing on the pole is British model Kate Moss.

"I'll Never Fall in Love Again"
Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes (2010, lyrics by Hal David)

This was a last-minute addition to the stage musical Promises, Promises, a 1968 adaptation of Billy Wilder's 1960 Oscar-winning black comedy The Apartment, which would be the songwriting duo's only show. Beset by the stress of preparing the show for Broadway in Boston, Bacharach ended up with pneumonia, which knocked him out of commission. David, hearing about his partner's misfortunes, : What do you get when you kiss a guy? / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia / And after you do, he'll never phone you. This version features the stars of the 2010-11 Broadway revival.

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