Reminiscences of a master songwriter.
Compiled from interviews conducted by journalist Greenfield (The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun, 2011, etc.) with Bacharach and his associates, this oral memoir provides a congenial overview of a life devoted to music. Bacharach began reluctantly taking piano lessons as a child, then became smitten with classical and jazz compositions; they would later inspire him to bring a sophisticated palette to his own songs. After a few unspectacular years at the Brill Building, he hit the jackpot with lyricist Hal David; the two went on to create such iconic hits as “Baby, It’s You” for the Shirelles, “The Look of Love” for Dusty Springfield and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” for B.J. Thomas. Bacharach candidly details his transformation into a household name, his perfectionism in the recording studio and his sometimes-contentious relationships with David and the indomitable Dionne Warwick. The chanteuse acted as a muse for the pair and was aggrieved when they broke up their songwriting partnership after the colossal failure of their score for the 1973 box office bomb Lost Horizon. For decades, breaking up relationships was a specialty of Bacharach’s; many of the women in his life, including his first three wives, describe him as exuding a combination of ambition, ambivalence and arrogance. The most moving recollections come from Marlene Dietrich, who highly valued Bacharach as her conductor and accompanist on the road, and from ex-wife Angie Dickinson, who laments Bacharach’s decision to institutionalize their autistic daughter, Nikki. The specter of Nikki (who committed suicide in 2007) casts a shadow over the memoir. Whether Greenfield has purposely arranged the book this way or not, intertwining Dickinson’s interviews with Bacharach’s commentary paints a darker picture of the man whom most people identify with catchy love songs and cameo appearances in the Austin Powers films.
Illuminating and gritty, though Bacharach's remarks are occasionally self-serving.