'Greatest American composer': Remembering Burt Bacharach, his impact on San Jose

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Friday, February 10, 2023
Remembering legendary composer Burt Bacharach, his impact on SJ
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Burt Bacharach's list of hit songs is endless but the 1968 hit "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" helped make the city a household name.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Legendary composer Burt Bacharach passed away Wednesday at the age of 94.

His list of hit songs is endless but it's one from 1968 that helped make one Bay Area city's name known worldwide: "Do You Know The Way To San Jose"

It's just one of the many iconic tunes legendary composer Burt Bacharach was behind.

"So many people across the globe know 'I Say A Little Prayer" and "Promises, Promises", said Dr. Jeffrey Benson, San Jose State University's director of choral activities, "I mean, he's written for everybody."

But long before the city became the center of tech innovation, "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" helped make it a household name.

The song that was made a hit by Dionne Warwick, was composed by Bacharach and his longtime music Partner Hal David who passed away in 2012.

"Everybody sang that song," Dona Nichols reflected. Nichols is a San Jose State professor who teaches a course called "Sex, drugs and Rock 'N' Roll," and she's also working on a documentary about women in music, which includes Warwick.

"I was just at a Spartan football game," Nichols said, "And the marching band was playing 'Do you know the way to San Jose' so it's part of our culture."

"Dionne won her first Grammy for that song, because, number one, it's just catchy. But number two, because she sings it like nobody else," Benson said, "You know, that's just her voice and that's what Burt Bacharach was great at: finding talent and saying, 'you know, this piece is going to work for you.'"

Photojournalist and Author Linda Solomon was a longtime friend of Bacharach, photographing the composer for years.

"He's probably the greatest American composer," she said.

Solomon also says one of the biggest accomplishments of Bacharach's career and a source of pride was the 1985 megahit "That's What Friends Are For."

"All the proceeds, of course, benefited AIDS research," Solomon said, "Burt was such a wonderful philanthropist and through that song and what it did, to create awareness, and to create funding was so important."

Solomon says Bacharach never slowed down, continuing to work with present-day artist and getting a 2021 Grammy nomination.

"Even in his 90s, he was so prolific, and I think that's his greatest legacy" Solomon said, "He continued to do what he loved forever."

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