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At 89, Burt Bacharach is still on a mission

| Thursday, April 12, 2018, 9:42 a.m.

The mission — to touch people with his music — still burns strongly for Burt Bacharach. At 89, the legendary singer and songwriter could be resting on his many laurels (including three Oscars and eight Grammys), but he's too busy composing and performing. He gave four concerts in late March at Seattle's Jazz Alley club and is coming to Pittsburgh for a one-night stand. He'll tour Europe this summer.

It's not that he enjoys traveling.

“I hate going through airports and hate getting on planes. And I don't make enough to fly private,” he says. “It's that important to me if I can make people feel something.”

Bacharach performed his music with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on April 10 at Heinz Hall, bringing his own supporting combo, which includes three singers and instrumentalists.

A consummate pro, Bacharach has long believed that “If you're a good musician you really should be able to do everything.” The principle applies to his creativity, with collaborations ranging from Dionne Warwick to Elvis Costello to Dr. Dre, and to his performance preparation.

“Pittsburgh has a great orchestra with a great sound, and a great hall, too,” he says. “But when working with an orchestra you have to respect the time restrictions or you run into overtime. It makes for hard choices (in putting the program together). I want to be able to give an audience the music they identify with me and are happy to hear, or expect to hear, or are disappointed if they don't hear. So, it's a kind of juggling.”

Among his hits are “Alfie,” “Close to You,” “Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe,” “I'll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” — just to pick a few of his 48 Top 10 hits.

“I'm not a rock 'n' roll writer. I never was,” he says. “I'm not an up-tempo writer. These are songs that were meaningful years ago and have withstood the passage of time.”

Bacharach recalls a concert he gave just 10 days after 9/11 in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had stood.

“The promoter wanted to cancel. I canvassed the band, and they were all for doing the concert. I was, too, and we did it. The last six songs included ‘A House Is Not a Home' and ‘What the World Needs Now' — all kind of things that tug at your heart. In these times, right now, I think if I can touch somebody's heart for a minute and half or two minutes then I feel good. It's a mission. I'm going to make you feel as good as I can with my music. It's going to be searching, with meaningful words. There's a reason why ‘ ... The World Needs Love' is constantly played.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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