Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Classic Song Chronicles: Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "This Guy's in Love with You"

***A new series designed to pay tribute to some of my all time favorite songs***

Burt Bacharach was nearing the end of an astonishing decade of writing some of the greatest songs of the twentieth century when his haunting "This Guy's In Love with You" first appeared in 1968. Featuring lyrics by the incomparable Hal David, "This Guy's In Love with You" first came into prominence when A&M founder and popular band leader Herb Alpert recorded a version for a television special.

Bacharach biographer Serene Dominic notes though in his extraordinary Song By Song that the song was probably written for Dusty Springfield as "This Girl's In Love with You". Dusty's lovely original version appeared on her great Dusty Definitely (a title that will come into play a bit later) but it was Alpert who scored the first hit with it.

Lyrically striking and yet deceptively simple, "This Guy's in Love with You" is one of Bacharach's most remarkably versatile songs and it has been adapted as everything from a syrupy ballad to an stone cold soul classic to a free jazz workout.
Shortly after Alpert's striking version became a smash hit, it seemed that nearly everyone was having a go at it, including Dionne Warwick who scored a top ten hit with it in 69.

Covered hundreds of times by artists all over the world, the song has somehow never outstayed its welcome and it remains as fresh and as powerful as the day that Bacharach first sketched it out in the mid sixties. One of the song's biggest fans is powerhouse songwriter Noel Gallagher, who has gone on record as calling it "the greatest love song ever written." Perhaps even more to the point, the first Oasis album's title Definitely Maybe harkens directly back to that original Dusty Springfield album that the song was first written for. Gallagher would get the chance to perform the song with Bacharach himself in the mid nineties and it has since become a staple of his solo acoustic sets.

Gallagher, who placed a photo of Bacharach in plain view on the cover of that 1st Oasis album, has never shied away from his love for the iconic songwriter and Oasis' gorgeous "Half a World Away" owes not just a little to "The Guy's in Love with You."

My personal favorite versions of the song are sadly not available on YouTube. Petula Clark recorded a soaring version that just melts me every time I hear it and the always undervalued BJ Thomas delivered a stunning take on one of his sadly out of print late sixties LPs.
A couple of key versions thankfully preserved on YouTube are two soul versions courtesy of Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Ruffin:

A terrific live Jazz version by Ella Fitzgerald has to be highlighted as well:

As does this eerie and near whispered Johnny Mathis take:

Finally, for a little international flavor, here is German artist Hildegard Knef delivering her version of this song:

Picking a favorite Burt Bacharach song is a bit impossible as there are just so many masterpieces to choose from but "This Guy's in Love with You" would place near the top of my list.

Its remarkable staying power and the fact that it has been recorded by such a diverse group of singers in a number of incredibly different styles makes it an ideal first choice for this new series.


Keith said...

Hey Jeremy. Great post! I'm a big Burt Bacharach fan. I've been listening to a lot of his music lately. He's had so many great songs. This is one of my favorites. Thanks for posting all those clips. There have been some really wonderful takes on this tune. Cheers!

dany boom said...

love this song very much.

hey this fall burt bacharach came to montreal and played a concert in a church ! and we went.

it was really something. i was a little ticked off at the start - this fine song, and many others were lumped into a medley. i hate @#$% medleys. and this guys in love with you is such a fine tune i felt it deserved to be played in its entirety.

im sure you understand. anyway, i did warm up when the man himself - hes like what, 70 ? sat at the piano and played what the world needs now, solo. his voice is frail but it was very moving.

overall an intimate audience and a fantastic setting made for a fantastic evening !


Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
Glad to hear you are a fellow fan and i hope you enjoy the other songs I choose in the future.

Thanks Dany for the comments and the memories on the concert. Much appreciated. I regret that I have never had the opportunity to see him live before...

Jan said...

Jeremy what a terrific idea for a series. If someone had asked me what I thought of this song I would have said "it's ok". But after listening to all of these versions I have to say I am now officially in love with this song.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Jan,
I wish they would have had the Petulia Clark version over there as it is probably my favorite...