It goes without saying that Burt Bacharach is one of the most-notable songwriters and composers in the history of American popular music.
The six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner is well known for his numerous hit songs and compositions — many with lyrics provided by the late Hal David — spanning many decades, beginning in the late 1950s, and he is also noted as an accomplished pianist.
Bacharach was born in Kansas City and grew up in the Forest Hills section of New York City. Over the years, Bacharach wrote 66 songs that reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Magazine’s popular music charts, and 28 of them attained Top 10 status with six going all the way to No. 1.
The Bacharach-David breakthrough hit came in late 1957, when “The Story Of My Life” became a No. 1 C&W charter for Marty Robbins, in addition to reaching No. 15 as a pop chart crossover.
Many of their hits were written for Dionne Warwick — more than three dozen in all — and seven of them climbed into the Top 10, with 19 moving into the Top 40. However, the following listing of the best-selling records composed by Bacharach only includes one Warwick tune, and that was in collaboration with three other famous vocalists: Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.
Warwick’s highest charter as a solo artist (“Theme From Valley Of The Dolls”) went to No. 2 on Billboard, but it wasn’t composed by Bacharach. However, the B-side (“I Say A Little Prayer”) was a Bacharach tune that reached No. 4 on the pop listings.
This article lists the top 10 Bacharach-written songs, based on record sales and national chart impact. The compilation doesn’t necessarily contain Bacharach’s best tunes — subject to opinion, of course — but they were the ones that resulted in the highest placement on Billboard’s pop charts. And perhaps not surprisingly, they were sung by 10 different recording artists. [To hear any of the songs, simply click on the title].
- 1. “RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD” (B.J. Thomas, 1969): Ray Stevens was first offered the opportunity to record this song for the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford), but turned it down. B.J. Thomas recorded the song for the film, and it became a No. 1 hit on both the pop and adult contemporary charts, in addition to winning an Academy Award for best original song. The record spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 for the vocalist, who was raised in Rosenberg, Texas, and formed his own band, The Triumphs, while in high school.
- 2. “THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR” (Dionne & Friends, 1986): This recording featured Dionne Warwick, along with “friends” Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder. It had huge sales as a single, and it was all over the Billboard Magazine charts — No. 1 pop (4 weeks), R&B (3 weeks) and adult contemporary (2 weeks) — and it was Billboard’s No. 1 overall single for 1986. The song is best known for this cover version, but it was first introduced by Rod Stewart on the 1982 movie soundtrack of “Night Shift.”
- 3. “CLOSE TO YOU” (The Carpenters, 1970): The Carpenters were a brother-sister vocal and instrumental duo, Karen and Richard, from Downey, Calif., and originally from New Haven, Conn. This song was atop the Billboard pop charts for four consecutive weeks, and it spent 17 weeks in the Hot 100. Further, it led to the 1970 Best New Artist Grammy Award.
- 4. “ARTHUR’S THEME (BEST THAT YOU CAN DO)” (Christopher Cross, 1981): This was the theme song from the film “Arthur”, starring Dudley Moore. The singer was born Christopher Geppert in San Antonio, Texas, and he won the 1980 Best New Artist Grammy Award. The recording was at the top of the national pop charts for three weeks, and it headed the adult contemporary listings for four weeks.
- 5. “THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU” (Herb Alpert, 1968): More famous as the originator of The Tijuana Brass, which churned out 18 Top 40 hits, this was Alpert’s only Top 40 solo item. The producer-bandleader was already playing trumpet at age 8, and in addition to becoming the first No. 1 hit on Alpert’s A&M record label, it also spent 10 consecutive weeks at the top of the adult contemporary charts.
- 6. “ON MY OWN” (Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald, 1986) The record spent three weeks atop the national pop charts and four weeks as the No. 1 R&B song. LaBelle, from Philadelphia, began her career with The Ordettes, who became The Blue Belles, and she also hit the top of the pop and R&B charts with “Lady Marmalade” in 1975. McDonald, a singer and keyboardist, was formerly with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers.
- 7. “ONE LESS BELL TO ANSWER” (The Fifth Dimension, 1970): This song made it to No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts and was a No. 1 adult contemporary tune. The singing quintet from Los Angeles, originally called The Versatiles, included Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., and two of their recordings in 1969 — “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” and “Wedding Bell Blues — went to the top of the national charts.
- 8. “ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK A HEART” (Gene Pitney, 1962): The vocalist was a native of Hartford, Conn., and before going solo under his own name in 1960, he recorded in a duo (with Ginny Arnell) as Jamie and Jane, and as a solo artist as Billy Bryan. He was also a prominent songwriter, with such credits as “Rubber Ball” (for Bobby Vee in 1960), “He’s A Rebel” (The Crystals, 1962) and “Hello Mary Lou” (Ricky Nelson, 1961). This song went to No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts and No. 1 on the adult contemporary listings, and the flip side (“If I Didn’t Have A Dime”) charted at No. 42.
- 9. “BLUE ON BLUE” (Bobby Vinton, 1963): The singer was the son of a bandleader from Canonsburg, Pa., which was also the hometown of Perry Como, The Four Coins and one-hit-wonder Joey Powers (“Midnight Mary” in 1963). He formed his own band in high school, and in 1962, he launched a solo singing career in 1962, which led to 31 Top 40 hits, including three No. 1 singles. “Blue on Blue” climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- 10. “WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT?” (Tom Jones, 1965): This was the title song from a film starring Woody Allen and Peter Sellers, and the record spent 10 weeks in the national Top 40 and a dozen weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, ascending to No. 3. The singer, born Thomas Jones Woodward in South Wales, worked in night clubs as Tommy Scott before moving to London to start a solo singing career in 1964. This was Jones’ second-biggest hit, behind No. 2 “She’s A Lady” in 1971.
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