Burt Bacharach, who died on Wednesday (Feb. 8) at age 94, was one of America’s finest composers and arrangers. He most deservedly won a lot of awards over the years, and just missed out on a couple of others.
Bacharach won six Grammys, three Oscars and an Emmy. He and his long-time collaborator Hal David were nominated for a Tony for best musical in 1970 for the musical comedy Promises, Promises, on which they teamed with playwright Neil Simon. Promises, Promises was nominated in that category the same year as the smash Hair, which brought rock rhythms (and full-frontal nudity) to Broadway. Surprisingly, neither of these shows won. The award went to 1776, also a long-running hit, but one that is less well-remembered today.
If Promises, Promises had won, Bacharach would have become an EGOT the following year when he won a Primetime Emmy for his special Singer Presents Burt Bacharach. That would have made Bacharach just the second person to achieve the EGOT, following Richard Rodgers, who completed the sweep of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards in 1962.
Another miss: Bacharach never received the Kennedy Center Honors. True, he and David received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, but many others have received both awards. It’s the Kennedy Center’s loss: Bacharach would have added luster to their roster of recipients.
Fortunately, Bacharach achieved so many awards feats that we don’t need to dwell on the shoulda-woulda-couldas. He had a 58-year span of Grammy nominations, from 1963 (a song of the year nod for the suave, if sexist, “Wives and Lovers”) to 2021 (a nod for best musical theater album for Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater’s Some Lovers).
Here are 12 times Burt Bacharach made awards show history.
Feb. 29, 1968
Bacharach won his first Grammy, but not as a composer. He won best instrumental arrangement for his recording of his prized song “Alfie.” The song was featured on his first album for A&M Records, Reach Out, which was fixture on the Billboard 200 for more than a year.
Bacharach and David became the first songwriting team to receive two Grammy nominations for song of the year in the same year. They were nominated for both “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” (from Promises, Promises). Just two other songwriting teams in Grammy history have received two song of the year nods in the same year. In 1979, Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris were nominated for “I Will Survive” and “Reunited.” In 1994, Elton John & Tim Rice were up for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life.”
When that year’s Grammys were presented on March 11, Bacharach won two awards – best original score written for a motion picture or a television special for Butch Cassidy and best score from an original cast show album for Promises, Promises (which he and David shared).
April 7, 1970
Following Oscar nods for “What’s New Pussycat,” “The Look of Love” and “Alfie,” Bacharach won finally walked away with a trophy. In fact, he won two – best original score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and best original song for that film’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” On winning the first award, he said: “I’m deeply happy, I just can tell you that. It was a knock-out picture to work on. And I’m very thrilled. It’s a great night. Thank you!” On winning the second, he said: “…Two of them. I mean, just, it’s too fantastic. Very special to me, tomorrow morning they’ll be on the breakfast table of our daughter. She’s only, not even four years old, but I swear she’ll look at these two and she’ll know how very special they are. You made me very, very happy. I thank you. All my heart.”
May 9, 1971
Bacharach won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding single program – variety or musical for the CBS special Singer Presents Burt Bacharach. Bacharach won even though he was competing with himself for the honor: Another Evening With Burt Bacharach, an NBC special, was also nominated. The third nominee in the category was Harry and Lena, an ABC special which paired Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne.
Bacharach’s guests on his winning special were Barbra Streisand (making her first appearance as a guest on someone else’s show since her legendary 1963 appearance on The Judy Garland Show), Tom Jones (who had a 1965 smash with Bacharach and David’s “What’s New Pussycat?”) and dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The show was produced by Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, who had worked on Streisand’s first classic specials for CBS.
March 29, 1982
Bacharach won his third and final Oscar – best original song for “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” which he co-wrote with his then-wife Carole Bayer Sager and Christopher Cross. (They shared the songwriting credit – and the Oscar – with Peter Allen. The song’s best and most memorable line “caught between the moon and New York City” came from a previously-unpublished song that Sager and Allen had worked on.) In accepting the award, Bacharach exclaimed: “I just want to thank Steve Gordon [the film’s writer/director] for a beautiful, beautiful project to work on. It was great fun, great joy. I’m very, very happy. Thank you so much.”
Feb. 24, 1987
Bacharach finally won his first and only song of the year Grammy for “That’s What Friends Are For,” which he cowrote with Sager. They were also nominated for record of the year for producing the hit version of the song recorded by Dionne Warwick and friends Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.
June 12, 1996
Bacharach and David received the Johnny Mercer Award at the annual Songwriters Hall of Fame induction gala in New York. They were the third songwriting team to receive the SHOF’s top award, following Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock (1990) and Betty Comden & Adolph Green (1991).
Feb. 26, 1997
Bacharach and David received a trustees award from the Recording Academy. As luck would have it, they received the award the same year that Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss, the founders of A&M Records, received theirs. Alpert’s 1968 smash “This Guy’s in Love With You” was the first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 for both Bacharach and David and A&M Records.
Feb. 24, 1999
Bacharach and Elvis Costello won a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals for “I Still Have That Other Girl,” a track from their Painted From Memory album. The pair was nominated two years earlier in the same category for “God Give Me Strength,” which was also featured on that album.
Feb. 8, 2006
Bacharach won his final Grammy award – best pop instrumental album for At This Time. Bacharach was both artist and producer on the album, which was released by Columbia.
Feb. 10, 2008
Bacharach received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy. Jackie DeShannon, who had a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 in 1965 with one of Bacharach and David’s signature songs, “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” wrote the appreciation of Bacharach that appeared in that year’s Grammy program book. “When you listen to Burt’s melodies, you realize he is someone blessed with a unique gift … With his compelling chord changes and unusual time signatures, Burt’s arranging skills provide the icing on the cake.”
May 9, 2012
Bacharach and David became the first songwriting team to win the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Only one other team has received the honor – Gloria and Emilio Estefan in 2019. Performers at the ceremony, attended by President and Mrs. Obama, included Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Sheléa, Rumer, Sheryl Crow, Mike Myers, Arturo Sandoval, and musicologist Michael Feinstein, who spoke of Ira Gershwin’s admiration of the pair’s songs.