New collaboration has Burt Bacharach still working at 92

New collaboration has Burt Bacharach still working at 92

Burt Bacharach has been working on an ending.

Not that he’s ready to call it quits on a career that began in the 1950s. Instead, the acclaimed composer is enjoying a burst of creativity at age 92, thanks to his new collaboration with Nashville singer-songwriter Daniel Tashian.

On Friday they’ll release a five-song EP titled “Blue Umbrella.” And despite being separated by two time zones and a couple of generations, they’re continuing to write music together, including a tune titled “Quiet Place,” which may be nearly finished.

“I do have an ending,” Bacharach tells Tashian during a recent three-way phone call. “It hits home. Later we will talk and I will play it for you. I think it’s what you’re looking for.”

“I can’t wait,” Tashian responds.

That’s the likely reaction of any Bacharach fan to the prospect of new music from the composer of “This Guy’s In Love With You,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” among many other hits. The EP is his first album in 15 years, and he’s glad to keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In these times it’s like a lifesaver, while being terrified at what’s happening outside,” Bacharach says from his home in Pacific Palisades, California. “It’s a form of therapy.”

Tashian, 45, is also delighted by the improbable collaboration and its timing. His parents, the folk duo Barry and Holly Tashian, played in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. His dad was a member of the Remains when they opened for the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

And Tashian grew up a Bacharach fan.

“They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” Tashian says from his home in Nashville. “It’s a great thrill. There is a whole world of sound in his head that is so pleasing to be able to collaborate with.”

Tashian started writing songs in high school, plays in two bands and last month released his second children’s album, “Mr. Moonlight.” He won two Grammys last year for his role as a songwriter and producer on Kacey Musgraves’ critically acclaimed release “Golden Hour,” and that album brought him to the attention of Bacharach.

They first met at Bacharach’s house the day after last year’s Grammys and immediately hit it off.

“The more we spent time together,” Bacharach says, “the more I liked Daniel, and the more brilliance he showed to me.”

Over the phone, Bacharach has the same raspy voice that sang “Close to You” with Barbra Streisand on network TV. That was before social distancing, as the intimate 1971 performance suggests.

An appearance on a recent promotional Zoom call shows Bacharach also still has a California chic shock of gray hair. He might hunch a bit, but then that’s piano player posture, and he doesn’t look, talk or write like he’s 92.

Bacharach once wrote a song titled “(It’s) Wonderful to Be Young,” but he has always worked as though time were on his side.

“It took me three weeks to write ‘Alfie,’” he says. “I never enjoyed anything else while I was trying to finish that song. I was going to the theatre and not enjoying the play, because my mind was on trying to solve a problem with ‘Alfie.’

“But they don’t give medals for speed.”

Bacharach was working for Marlene Dietrich in Las Vegas in 1957 when he learned he had his first hit — a country rendition of “The Story of My Life” by Marty Robbins. Such is the range of artists drawn to Bacharach’s work over the decades.

Now comes “Blue Umbrella,” with Bacharach composing most of the music and Tashian writing most of the lyrics. It’s a set of graceful, soulful ballads with an air of sophistication that is classic Bacharach.

One song, titled “Bells of St. Augustine,” includes a one-octave interval in the melody. It was Tashian’s role to sing the songs, and he filled it beautifully, although he concedes he doesn’t read music well and was a bit unnerved to have Bacharach assessing his studio performance from the piano.

“I remember one time saying, ‘Burt, is there anything you want me to change?’” Tashian recalls with a chuckle. “And he said, ‘But wait a minute, you didn’t even get the notes right yet. Let’s not change anything, let’s just get it right.’

“It’s a learning thing for me, and I’m enjoying singing these songs so much. They are difficult, but you really feel alive. There are some interesting intervals, and when you land the jumps, you feel a certain triumphant feeling.”

They finished recording the EP before the pandemic began. When it ends, they hope to perform the songs in concert, and also hope to write and record a full album together.

Tashian was struck when they first met by Bacharach’s eagerness to keep working.

“I remember going into Burt’s writing room,” Tashian says. “There are a lot of trophies in there. I was thinking, ‘Man, if I had done half the stuff you’ve been able to do, I’d probably just put my feet up a little bit.’ He corrected me right away. He said, ‘You don’t want to put your feet up. You want to say, What’s next?’”

That’s Burt Bacharach at 92, inspiring because he’s still inspired.

Steven Wine, The Associated Press

Music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Sylvan Lake RCMP Detachment. Photo Courtesy of Google Maps
Sylvan Lake RCMP looking for input on policing concerns

Staff Sergeant Jeff McBeth wants to hear from local community members in the detachment area

Black Press file
The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.”
Flu shots are available free of charge at pharmacies and doctors’ offices across the province

This year’s flu season presents an additional challenge as Alberta responds to COVID-19

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

Most Read