ORLANDO, Fla. – Father of the songwriting industry, musical backbone of this country, the Pharrell Williams of his time.
These are just some of the superlatives Orlando musicians Eric Copeland and Michael Cochran attribute to legendary and prolific songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach, who died Wednesday at the age of 94.
The Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winning Bacharach died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles of natural causes, publicist Tina Brausam said Thursday.
Bacharach was the mastermind behind such unforgettable melodies as “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and dozens of other gold standards in the music hall of fame.
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“He’s just one of those iconic American songwriters,” said Copeland, a composer, producer and educator who teaches at F.I.R.S.T. Institute, an entertainment and digital media school in Orlando. “His songs were the backbone of this country in the ‘60s, for sure, and into the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
The Orlando instructor recalls Bacharach coming on the scene a little bit before The Beatles and quickly writing his way to the top, citing credits like “Always Something There to Remind Me,” “What the World Needs Now” and even “Arthur’s Theme,” the track featured in the 1981 comedy starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli.
While Bacharach was a force in and of himself, he was also known for creating hits with lyricist Hal David, among other artists.
“If you just look back at all the songs that he wrote through the ‘60s, it’s like he’s a little like the Pharrell (Williams), or whoever you would consider the person writing all the hits behind all the pop artists today,” Copeland said.
Cochran, a fellow F.I.R.S.T. Institute teacher, agreed that Bacharach’s influence is unmatched and his legacy is important to remember to keep the industry moving forward.
“I know that he is a father of our industry and one of the founders of a lot of important things in our industry,” Cochran said. “I learned a lot from his production styles, and especially his studies in jazz and jazz music and things like that.”
Its a legacy that’s remembered even in the newer generation of musicians, like Brian Inerfeld of “No Lonely Hearts,” an Orlando boy band, who said he grew up with an appreciation of Bacharach’s music and passion for pursuing it.
“He is one of the musical greats and he has had such a big influence on my life as well as so many others,” Inerfeld said. “So that’s hard. That’s a big loss in the music industry... I feel like obviously growing up, I didn’t realize I knew as many of his songs as I did.”
Copeland said it’s hard to believe one person wrote and composed all of these songs, heard everywhere from movie soundtracks to iPods, played to the vocals of everyone from Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin to The Carpenters and Dusty Springfield. He’s collaborated with Elvis Costello and Dr. Dre and had a hand in crafting music in every genre imaginable.
“That’s the key to a long career in music,” Copeland said. “You have to be able to continue to work with everyone... That’s what he did through his entire career.”
As Copeland does when any of his musical heroes die, he reminds himself that their repertoire will live on.
“I think, ‘Wow, what a great catalog they left us with, that we can, we can relive and redo over and over,” Copeland said. “We can make new arrangements and new recordings of the songs and investigate them in different ways. And I would imagine that’s going to come out here.”
He is survived by Hansen, as well as his children Oliver, Raleigh and Cristopher, Brausam said. He was preceded in death by his daughter with Dickinson, Nikki Bacharach.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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