Burt Bacharach Schools the Kid

I’m working a gig at Hokum Hall in West Seattle, staying with another player in the show on the other side of town. The Kid came along for the weekend. All of 5 years old she liked dressing up for the shows. Mom had put together a little makeup kit for her. While getting ready she was singing, “The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup… I say a little prayer for you…” That little high pitched voice transformed me into the luckiest father in the world.

Props ready the show’s about to go on— places everybody

I was one of the two jugglers in the show, there was a husband-wife team that sang together, always the duo, always songs from Broadway shows, including a tune from Wouldn’t it be Loverly— from My Fair Lady and the Kid blessed with the memory of a circus elephant working in a sideshow is for the rest of the weekend and most of the next year singing this tune.

While touring in those years the Kid would tag along for a few months out on the county fair circuit. We had a few rules that made our life together all that much sweeter. First thing was spotting a good campsite where we could tuck ourselves in for the night. Second thing was managing our soundtrack, what we played, what we sang together, and always always it was our back and forth over the lyrics. 

On our list it was Burt Bacharach that rate number one. My mom never met the Kid, but she’d have been proud of her. Favorites of Burt’s included: Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Walk on By, I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself, and The Balance of Nature.

Our most important possession wasn’t our sleeping bags it was our Burt Bacharach Rhino Records three CD anthology of Burt and Hal David’s greatest hits. I dubbed all my music onto cassette tape. Besides Bacharach we traveled with Sondheim, Sinatra, and Bennett. A few more throwback acts including Louis Prima, Barbra Streisand, and Nancy Wilson made it into our mix. A good chunk of my collection included country singers— Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, and Jim Reeves. Words lived as King in the cab of my pickup truck. 

Burt Bacharach’s Biggest Fan—the Kid

The Kid from right out the gate understood that Burt made music his partner Hal wrote the lyrics and then with a roster of talented singers they’d get into the studio and make a record. This was the water my daughter swam in. She understood Lennon/McCarthy not only wrote their own songs but also recorded them. All this coming of age listening to music on the road with her showman father. 

As soon as the news broke of Burt Bacharach’s passing the Kid shot me a message— RIP Burt. As an only child she spent way too much time around adults and not nearly as much time with kids her own age. Between my touring and her living outside of town on a farm she was set, all she had to do is put a favorite tune on and the music fixed everything. 

People grow up, there is this adulthood waiting to overwhelm us, we soon forget how a child’s imagination is the key to successful playing. The Kid didn’t just listen with a certain discerning adultness, this very precocious young girl would sing the lyrics and become completely absorbed in the melody and lyrics… “What’s it all about Alfie, is it just for the moment we live—” Somehow, I’m going town to town across Wyoming from fairground to fairground and I’ve got the Kid explaining to me how she thinks this whole living in the moment versus living to love someone is important and why she likes the song, because the lyrics tell an important story. 

I knew Burt’s hits from listening to the radio, all of us did, but it was my mom and then my father that filled in the gaps. My mom wore the grooves off Living Together. My father in his kind of odd longish hair went through a Karen Carpenter phase, much of it was in collaboration with Burt. 

I was working at Universal Studios and living in a trailer park in North Hollywood. Every night on my way home I’d pass the Palomino, many greats had played this joint, one of the most famous Ricky Nelson played here and one of his biggest hits was in collaboration with Burt Bacharach— Take a Broken Heart. I went inside for a beer after work. This was the early 1990’s, the booze was still here but the bands were long gone. The joint whispered long lost musical memories that were made here.

Comedy Tonight by Zero Mostel had made a big impression. The Kid began to understand how great movies were always that much greater with a sensational tune included. 

All those good little soles

The really great singers inhabit a song, make it their own. The Kid understood the songs were like movies, they painted pictures in your mind, and they were put across by a singer with a talent similar to the Kid’s juggling for his supper pop. 

Music, juggling, movies, traveling from town to town, setting up and tearing down, pulling in alongside a riverbank, building a fire, cooking supper, and curling up on the bunk with a lamp to read before falling to sleep, it was all part and parcel of her own songbook, the songs she picked, the music she played, these are indelibly inked into her memory now. None was a bigger influencer and favorite of the Kid’s than Burt Bacharach. I Say a Little Prayer indeed. Thank you, Mr. Bacharach— 

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7 months ago

Beautiful writing. What a wonder-filled father-daughter story!

7 months ago

Thanks Pops!
I’ll take this as the Valentines Sobriquet for your sweet girl.
What a lovely remembrance and insight down the path of
Nice invitation to look back and examine the myriad “little”
things that end up affecting family members in the “Great Big World”

7 months ago

I’m crying now. What a beautiful story.