Burt Bacharach: International Man of Music

Everyone from the Hollywood elite to your grandma enjoys riding down the road and listening to their favorite songs on the radio. We will hear a song, and a flood gate of memories come rushing back. The same thing happened to actor/comedian Mike Meyers one night while driving home from hockey practice one night. After listening to the soulful yet sensually husky voice of Dusty Springfield’s song “The Look of Love” on the radio, he started reminiscing about the Sixties. “The Look of Love” brought two thoughts to the comedic actor’s mind: what happened to all the swingers and one of his favorite movies – the 1967 non-Eon Productions satire James Bond film Casino Royale. The Casino Royale movie and “The Look of Love” (a song featured on the award-winning Casino Royale soundtrack) planted the inspirational seeds for his creation of the swinging international man of mystery Austin Powers along with a cue from the premise of the TV show Adam Adamant Lives! (which centered around an Edwardian adventurer who is frozen in 1867 by his arch-enemy only to be awakened in and has to get used to life in the sixties).

The composer for the movie’s soundtrack and writer for the song “The Look of Love” coincidentally makes an appearance in all three of the Austin Powers movies. In the movie, Austin breaks the third wall and introduces the illustrious composer and songwriter Burt Bacharach as he plays his song “What the World Needs Now is Love” on-screen atop a Las Vegas tour bus in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery while he and Elvis Costello performed “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me while the footage of his performance from the first Austin Powers movie is re-used in the third film. Though I was raised in a home that was eclectic when it came to music, I did not know much about Burt Bacharach until I saw him in Austin Powers. Not only did I not understand Burt Bacharach’s work in other James Bond movies, but I also did not realize how much of an impact that “The Look of Love” had on Mike Meyers during the writing process for Austin Powers. I also did not realize how impactful that Burt Bacharach had been to the world of music. 

Between the late 1950s and the 1980s, Burt Bacharach composed hundreds of pop songs that have been covered by more than 1,000 different artists with 73 of the songs topping the US Top 40 charts. Pop icons like Elton John and Neil Diamond; soulful female artists like Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight; legends like Cher and Aretha Franklin; soulful male legends like Stevie Wonder and Percy Sledge; country icons like Gene Pitney and Ronnie Milsap; and even The Beatles and Tom Jones. Many of the songs that are synonymous with an artist were written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; like Tom Jones’s “What’s New Pussycat?”, Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer”, or Gene Pitney’s “(The man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” (which is one of my favorite vintage country songs).

Burt Bacharach contributed songs to soundtracks, written songs for award-winning artists, and is considered to be one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Along with his associate, Hal David (whom he collaborated with on many songs) received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize in 2012. I hope that these continued accolades and acknowledgment from the music community will help the general populous realize the impact that this composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, singer, and conductor had on the world of popular music let alone understand the hand that he played in the creation of our favorite swinging International Man of Mystery.

Images:

Red Mazda Convertible by Wil Stewart wilstewart3 – https://unsplash.com/photos/GfBt7R4ywhkarchive copy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=618672

Casino Royale UK poster accredited to Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37430687

Austin Powers movie poster accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2563015

Burt Bacharach and Stevie Wonder accredited to Unknown – ebay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28343904

Burt Bacharach in 2013 accredited to Phil Guest from Bournemouth, UK – Burt Bacharach, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79102167

Austin Powers accredited to Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada – DSC09924 – Austin Powers, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68736369

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s