I was on holiday and far from home when the news broke last week about the passing of Burt Bacharach. Often, when people of a certain vintage die, there can be a bit of communal head scratching as to how sure most of us were that they were still alive. Indeed my old radio friend, Simon Mayo formed a jocular quiz around the subject of whether certain celebrities still walked this earth are had passed on to the life hereafter.
In Burt’s case, however, there was none of that. His legacy was certainly assured, but so too was his presence on the world stage. Burt Bacharach had been playing shows, writing and producing music and releasing records until very recently. Not only that, but (if it really needs said) he was doing all of this up to and beyond his own very high standards. A quite remarkable feat. In case you wonder why any of this has anything to do with country music then I’d love to point you to his recent collaboration with Nashville’s very own Daniel Tashian. It’s an EP which we have enjoyed hugely on the AC called, Blue Umbrella, and it really is a beautiful piece of work highlighting both artists as great song writers.
I may have laboured this point before, but in case there is any doubt, I think one of the reasons that people love Bacharach songs is because the ones they always quote are written by Burt and Hal David. In the interviews I’ve seen with Burt over the last few days I’ve noticed he is always keen to give due credit to his late, great collaborator. These beautiful melodies would be soulless without the addition of the lyrics of Hal. A House is Not a Home, I Say a Little Prayer, Walk On By and I’ll Never Fall In Love Again are love songs of a higher order because of that brilliant combination of a lyric and a melody. What is also true, and song writers can never really over-learn this, is everything Burt did was led by the melody. And that, more than anything else, is what turned Brill Building craft into pop music gold.
Hal and Burt never veered very far from the love song as a format for their 2 – 3 minute masterpieces. I’m guessing, if you had asked them, they’d have told you that the well never runs dry on that particular subject. That is why, on this week’s AC, we too are going to celebrate the love song. In our case, it will be the country love song but…and this is a very important but, our two hours
We will have songs of young love, parental disapproval, the first tingle of romance, commitment, disappointment and songs that celebrate love from all sexual orientations. There will be complications, mismatches, break ups and divorce. There will however be time to console you with love that lasts and is truly celebrated on St Valentine’s Day. It will be two hours of country love songs curated by ourselves and going out to lovers of all kinds and all places this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland at five past eight. Join me live if you can on the airwaves or at any time you can make it on BBC Sounds. It will be great to have your company.