‘I did love this man’: Elvis Costello covers three Burt Bacharach songs at Gramercy
Elvis Costello opened his 10-night run at New York’s Gramercy Theatre on Thursday with a tribute to his longtime collaborator Burt Bacharach, the legendary composer who died Wednesday at 94.
Costello, 68, covered three of the essential 1960s pop composer’s songs: “Baby, It’s You,” which was recorded by the Shirelles and the Beatles; Dionne Warwick and lyricist Hal David’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” which Costello and Ron Isley each covered; and Bacharach’s early hit “Please Stay,” which was recorded by the Drifters in 1961.
The salute also came as Costello readies to release the four-CD box set “The Songs of Bacharach and Costello” in March, highlighting the musicians’ decades-long oeuvre and friendship.
From swinging ’60s sophistication to proto-yacht-rock to adult-contemporary elegance, the Bacharach songbook is sui generis in the annals of popular music.
According to Variety, Costello promised the sold-out crowd that he would be delving into their songbook of collaborations later in the Gramercy run when his longtime pianist Steve Nieve joins.
“It’s been a tough day,” said Costello, according to fan footage from the show. “You know, a really great man left us yesterday. And people say, when somebody leaves you who’s a great age, they say, well, it was a good ending. Yeah, [but] it’s never time to say goodbye to somebody if you love ’em. And I’m not ashamed to say I did love this man. And for everything he gave.”
In January, upon announcing the box set, the British musician said on Twitter and Instagram that he first heard Bacharach’s songs when his family “was still living in a basement flat near Olympia” in London in the late 1950s.
Director Jay Roach enlisted composer Burt Bacharach for a running gag in the “Austin Powers” movies and said they cried when he played the final scene.
“Never would I have imagined that my admiration for him would grow into a 25-year collaboration and friendship,” he wrote at the time. “I can’t wait to share our entire story with the world on March 3rd.”
Costello covered some of Bacharach’s songs early in his career before he started directly working with the composer in the 1990s. He recorded “Baby, It’s You” as a duet with Nick Lowe in the 1980s, then recorded “Please Stay” for his 1995 covers album “Kojak Variety.”
He teamed up with Bacharach to write “God Give Me Strength” for Allison Anders’ 1996 music film “Grace of My Heart.” After that, they worked on the 1998 album “Painted From Memory,” which resulted in the duo winning a Grammy for pop collaboration with vocals for their song “I Still Have That Other Girl.” The three-time Oscar-winning Bacharach told The Times in 2020 that his collaboration with England’s erstwhile angry young man was “one of the best things I ever did.”
Legendary singer Dionne Warwick said that despite her tiffs with late composer Burt Bacharach, they always let each other know they were like family.
The “She” and “Alison” hitmaker told the audience on Thursday that he always liked the opportunity to play Bacharach’s music and asked the crowd to sing along with “Baby, It’s You,” which he described as a “gentle song” that he learned from the Beatles.
The acerbic singer-songwriter also made a dig about an “extraordinary” but “not tremendously insightful” obituary he read in the New York Times about Bacharach, which he said made the “strange claim that Burt Bacharach, the man who wrote the music for ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love,’ was apolitical.”
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