When: Wed., March 4, 8 p.m. 2015
BURT BACHARACH | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
CAROLINA THEATRE, DURHAM—He now gets compared to George Gershwin and Cole Porter, but the young Burt Bacharach didn't sense he was destined for greatness. In high school, he found music to be a drag.
"I was coming from a foundation of hating playing piano, hating taking lessons, being pushed by my mother," remembers Bacharach. "'You gotta go to the piano before you go out and play with your friends.'"
When his tastes changed from big-band to bebop, he found his calling. He studied music, worked as an arranger for Marlene Dietrich and even penned a few hits. In 1962, Calvin Carter, an A&R man at Chicago's Vee-Jay Records, altered his course again.
"He says, 'Jerry Butler wants to record this song of yours. I want you to write the arrangement, conduct the orchestra, set the tempo, get it the way you want,'" he says. "Somebody opened the door for me, see?"
Once the door opened, Bacharach sailed through it, penning dozens of eventual classics while remaining resolutely outside of the decade's reigning rock 'n' roll sound. But he didn't begrudge the rock bands that had success with his songs, like Love, who began their debut with his "My Little Red Book."
"I was happy that became a hit. They changed a lot of stuff on me," he says. "I made the original record with Manfred Mann. They had a problem with me, just because those chords were not in the rock 'n' roll vocabulary."
Indeed, Bacharach's use of unorthodox chords, his fondness for bossa nova and tricky time signatures and mariachi horns make his music unmistakable. Now in his eighth decade, Bacharach could be coasting. Instead, he's working on bringing Painted From Memory—the musical he wrote with Elvis Costello—to Broadway and collaborating with Nashville's Tim Nichols. And while he's better known as a writer than a performer, he's just launched a tour that will end in the U.K. this July. What does he get out of it?
"Maybe it's an encounter in an airport. Somebody'll come up to me and say, 'Eight years ago, I was going through chemotherapy. I kept playing this one album of yours, and it helped me,'" he says. "You think there's a distinct possibility that you'll touch some people, make them feel good, make them feel emotional, make them feel something." 8 p.m., $55–$235, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham, 919-560-3030, www.carolinatheatre.org. —David Klein