Top 10 Burt Bacharach Songs
Burt Bacharach got his start like many of the classic songwriters of an earlier generation did: penning songs as a composer for hire. His style wasn't too far removed from urbane influences like Cole Porter and the Gershwins. From the start, he sounded like both a throwback to the past and the sound of something new.
His first two hits as a songwriter, both with lyrics by his longtime professional partner, lyricist Hal David, showed his versatility if not exactly the future of the pop landscape he'd help shape. Marty Robbins' "The Story of My Life" and Perry Como's "Magic Moments" were Top 20 pop hits (the former also went No. 1 on the country chart).
It took a few years before Bacharach and David found their footing: One of their early compositions was the title song from the 1958 monster movie The Blob, credited to the Five Blobs. But after a few hits for the Drifters, the Shirelles and Jerry Butler, they began working with a young singer named Dionne Warwick. "Don't Make Me Over," from 1962, was a modest hit, and soon the pair were behind some of the era's most enduring pop songs.
We take a look at the Top 10 Burt Bacharach Songs below. You'll notice the span of his influence - from pop to rock to R&B - and the decades of classics that helped build one of the all-time great songwriting catalogs.
10. "That's What Friends Are For," Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder (1985)
"That's What Friends Are For," which Bacharach wrote with Carole Bayer Sager, was first recorded in 1982 by Rod Stewart for the movie Night Shift. But it became a hit three years later when Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder got together as Dionne Warwick & Friends. Their version, a No. 1 hit, was released as a charity single for AIDS research and prevention, raising $3 million. It was also a double Grammy winner for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, plus Song of the Year for Bacharach and Sager. (Allison Rapp)
9. "(They Long to Be) Close to You," Carpenters (1970)
Written with Bacharach's longtime collaborator, Hal David, "(They Long to Be) Close to You" first appeared on Dionne Warwick's 1964 album, Make Way for Dionne Warwick. A few years later, it was on Dusty Springfield's 1967 album Where Am I Going? But the song made the most impact in 1970 when it was released by Carpenters, who were backed by Los Angeles' heralded Wrecking Crew. It was the sibling duo's breakthrough hit, staying in the No. 1 spot for four weeks and earning the title of Billboard's "Song of the Summer." (Rapp)
8. "God Give Me Strength," Burt Bacharach With Elvis Costello (1996)
"God Give Me Strength" was the first in a series of collaborations between Bacharach and Elvis Costello. The song was commissioned for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart; they enjoyed working together so much that they made a 1998 album, Painted From Memory. (One of the album's songs, "I Still Have That Other Girl," won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.) More co-written songs appeared on Costello's 2018 album, Look Now. The Songs of Bacharach & Costello, a box set featuring their work from across the decades, followed in 2023. (Rapp)
7. "A House Is Not a Home," Luther Vandross (1981)
Brook Benton recorded the original version of "A House Is Not a Home" in 1964 for the same-named movie; Dionne Warwick had a minor hit with it soon afterward. But it's Luther Vandross' version, from his 1981 debut, Never Too Much, that became the definitive take. After years as a top session singer (including work on David Bowie's Young Americans), Vandross became one of R&B's top artists of the '80s thanks to his sensitive takes on ballads like "A House Is Not a Home." He smolders here. (Michael Gallucci)
6. "The Look of Love," Dusty Springfield (1967)
"The Look of Love" was originally intended to be an instrumental, but lyrics were added, and Dusty Springfield recorded it for the 1967 James Bond parody Casino Royale. (It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song.) When Springfield re-recorded the song soon after, it became a No. 22 hit. It's since been recorded by artists as diverse as Andy Williams, Four Tops, the Delfonics, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Nina Simone, Vanilla Fudge, Liza Minnelli, Tony Bennett, the Zombies, Susanna Hoffs and Diana Krall. (Rapp)
5. "My Little Red Book," Love (1966)
The original version of "My Little Red Book" was included on the What's New Pussycat? soundtrack in a version by Manfred Mann. Love leader Arthur Lee saw the movie and immediately recorded a cover as his band's first single. Their version is more of a garage-rock attack than Mann's jazzier take. Bacharach wasn't a fan. No matter - Love's cover is the one everyone knows. (Gallucci)
4. "Baby It's You," The Shirelles (1961)
One of Bacharach's earliest hits, "Baby It's You" included lyrics by Luther Dixon (credited as Barney Williams) and Mack David. It made it to No. 8 in 1961. The Beatles were fans, often playing the song in their live sets. They recorded the song on their first album, 1963's Please Please Me. "Baby It's You" was dusted off and became a hit again in 1969 when it was covered by the American group Smith, who took it to No. 5. (Rapp)
3. "What the World Needs Now Is Love," Jackie DeShannon (1965)
Jackie DeShannon was an accomplished songwriter who had penned songs like "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room" in the early '60s but hadn't broken through as a recording artist. But then Bacharach and David gave her "What the World Needs Now Is Love" - which was originally written for Dionne Warwick, who didn't like the song - and she went Top 10. The song has since become one of the pair's most enduring compositions. (Gallucci)
2. "I Say a Little Prayer," Aretha Franklin (1968)
Dionne Warwick recorded "I Say a Little Prayer" a year earlier and even scored the bigger hit, but Aretha Franklin's cover is the definitive version of the Bacharach and David classic. The Queen of Soul shows much restraint, letting her backing singers, the Sweet Inspirations (which included Warwick's aunt, Cissy Houston), grab much of the spotlight. But Franklin steps up, too, turning what could have been a filler album track into a classic record. (Gallucci)
1. "Walk on By," Dionne Warwick (1964)
"Walk on By" wasn't Bacharach and David's first hit - it wasn't even their first hit with Dionne Warwick - but it is their most eternal. Originally slated as a B-side, until DJ Murray the K flipped it over, the song reached No. 6 on the pop chart, securing both Bacharach and Warwick's legacies. From the oh-so-Bacharachian flugelhorn to the luscious backing vocals to Warwick's restrained lead, "Walk on By" remains the most definitive record in Bacharach's extensive catalog. (Gallucci)