At age 90, Burt Bacharach hasn’t lost faith in the power of music.
“Music softens the heart, makes you feel something if it’s good, brings in emotion that you might not have felt before,” he told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview. “It’s a very powerful thing if you’re able to do to it, if you have it in your heart to do something like that.”
The celebrated songwriter has collaborated with fellow Grammy winner Rudy Perez on “Live to See Another Day,” a somber ballad inspired by the Parkland, Fla., massacre and other school shootings. Released Monday, the song was recorded with the Miami Symphony Orchestra and features the vocals of two Florida teens, Haven Star and Angie Green. Proceeds will be donated to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, an anti-gun violence organization based in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren in 2012.
Bacharach, who was born in Kansas City and briefly lived on Warwick Boulevard, says the new song was about love and “keeping our kids safe.” It includes lyrics such as, “We can’t live like this forever/ Got to have a change of heart.”
“It’s just crazy,” he said of the school shootings. “I think the best you can do (as a songwriter) as far as putting out a message, is … move people.”
Perez said in a statement that “Live to See Another Day” is “our cry to stop the violence aimed at our children in schools.”
Bacharach is among the most successful composers of his time, with hits including “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Alfie” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” He’s not thought of as a “protest” writer, but current events have moved him before. In the mid-1960s, he and lyricist Hal David were concerned about the country’s growing presence in Vietnam and wrote “What the World Needs Now,” a standard that Bacharach still features in live performance. Onstage, he might make a joke about President Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican border or dedicate a song to victims in Puerto Rico of Hurricane Maria.
Bacharach says he has no plans to stop writing, or performing. He contributes music to a new album by Elvis Costello, a longtime admirer with whom Bacharach has worked with before, and he continues to tour, including a two-hour show in July at London’s Royal Festival Hall. He performed at Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in 2014.
“You can throw up your hands and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ but it’s what I do. I’m not just going to stop and retire. That is like dying, you know.”