Burt Bacharach Wins Polar Music Prize

Often songwriters lurk in the background while performers steal the limelight … but Burt Bacharach, who's cranked out hits over four decades, will get plenty of limelight this year, in the form of $115,000 and one of music's most prestigious awards.

Today he became a recipient of the Polar Music Prize, along with contemporary classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and synthesizer creator Robert Moog.

"This is indeed a great honor," Bacharach said after being picked for the 1 million Swedish crown ($115,000) prize that will be presented to him in Stockholm on May 14 by Sweden's King Carl Gustaf.

The awards, which recognize lifetime achievements in changing the face of modern music, were announced at a glitzy ceremony at Midem, the world's largest music fair, which attracts 10,000 record executives from almost 100 countries to the fashionable French Riviera resort of Cannes.

This is the 10th anniversary of the prize founded by the late Stig Anderson, the manager of ABBA and one of the prime movers behind the huge international success of the Swedish group.

Bacharach, speaking via a recorded video message, said he was particularly thrilled to be following in the footsteps of two of his great heroes — R&B singer Stevie Wonder and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

The prize's roll call of honor down the last decade has certainly been varied, ranging from British pop singers Paul McCartney and Elton John to Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and Indian composer Ravi Shankar.

Polar Prize managing director Stuart Ward said, "We like to think of this as the music industry's equivalent of the Nobel prizes. It certainly was difficult picking this year's winners.

"There have been comments as to why someone like [past winners] Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan needs to be given more money," he added, "but our attitude is that we are serious about the prize and we are putting our money where our mouth is.

"Although we would never stipulate that the prize might go to a charity, Paul McCartney, for example, gave his prize to the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts."

Ward was the first to acknowledge that Bacharach was the big headline winner in the year 2001 for his contribution to popular music in the 20th century.

His biography took 12 pages just to recall his greatest hits from "I Say a Little Prayer" to "Walk on By" and "There's Always Something There to Remind Me."

Bacharach has also won numerous awards for his movie scores and soundtracks — including 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (which featured "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head") and 1980's Arthur (which featured "Arthur's Theme").

He was hailed as the greatest American composer since George Gershwin and a "King of Cool" whose music has now become hip to a whole new generation of performers.