Hal David, Burt Bacharach’s Lyric-Writing Partner, Dies at 91
Hal David, the lyricist who collaborated with composer Burt Bacharach on “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and dozens of other pop-music hits, has died, the Associated Press said. He was 91.
David died yesterday of complications from a stroke, the wire service said, citing Jim Steinblatt, a spokesman for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. E-mail messages sent by Bloomberg News to ASCAP over the weekend were not immediately returned.
David began writing with Bacharach after meeting him in 1956 at New York’s Brill Building, a hub for music publishers. The biggest beneficiary of their work was singer Dionne Warwick, who turned 20 of their songs into top-40 hits on the Billboard magazine pop singles chart between 1962 and 1970.
The lyrics focused on “people and feelings, rather than ideas and things,” Robin Platts wrote in the biography “Burt Bacharach & Hal David: What the World Needs Now,” (2002). “The events of the songs are imagined, but the feelings expressed in the words come from his own experience.”
Their partnership ended in 1973 after the failure of “Lost Horizon,” a movie musical. David’s biggest hit after the split was “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” written with Albert Hammond. Recorded by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias as a duet, the song topped Billboard’s pop charts in 1984.
David reunited with Bacharach in 1993 to write a song called “Sunny Weather Lover” for Warwick. They teamed up in 2000 for the soundtrack of “Isn’t She Great,” a film about author Jacqueline Susann.
“If we in truth do have a style it is because, in our search for originality, we have not written to a particular formula,” David once wrote on his website. “When we achieve the freshness we are looking for, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Harold Lane David was born on May 25, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York, to Gedalier David, a delicatessen owner, and his wife, Lina. As a child, he learned to play the violin and performed in neighborhood bands.
His desire to be a reporter waned when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He was stationed in Hawaii and worked in the Central Pacific Entertainment Section, where he spent about three years writing lyrics and skits for shows.
After his military stint ended, he followed an older brother, songwriter Mack David, into the music business. Hal David sold a song to bandleader Sammy Kaye in 1947 -- the same year he married his first wife, Anne Rauschman, whose work as a teacher helped support the couple. Another bandleader, Guy Lombardo, had a hit two years later with a song David co-wrote.
David wrote for Famous Music, one of the Brill Building’s largest publishers, when he met Bacharach. The duo scored its first success with Marty Robbins’s “The Story of My Life” in 1957. Perry Como had a hit with “Magic Moments” the next year.
Initially, David and Bacharach also worked separately with other songwriters. Their partnership became more exclusive when Gene Pitney turned four of their songs into top-40 singles in 1962 and 1963. “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” the first, rose to No. 4 on Billboard’s pop charts. “Only Love Can Break a Heart” then reached No. 2.
At about the same time, they teamed up with Warwick, a studio singer they met at a recording session for the Drifters vocal group. David wrote the lyrics for “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Walk on By,” all top-10 hits for her.
“What the World Needs Now” was a top-10 single for Jackie DeShannon in 1965, the same year that Tom Jones had a hit with “What’s New Pussycat.” Dusty Springfield preceded them into the top 10 with her version of “Wishin’ and Hopin’.”
“What’s New Pussycat,” the title song of a movie starring Peter Sellers, earned Bacharach and David their first Academy Award nomination in 1966. They were finalists the next year with “Alfie” and in 1968 with “The Look of Love.”
The duo’s first No. 1 pop single arrived in 1968, when Herb Albert’s version of “This Guy’s in Love With You” climbed to the top of Billboard’s chart.
“Raindrops,” a song from the 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” that was a No. 1 for B.J. Thomas, earned David an Oscar. He also won a Grammy Award for that year for co- writing the score of “Promises, Promises,” a Broadway musical, whose title song was a top-20 hit for Warwick.
The Bacharach-David team produced another chart topper, the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” in 1970. “One Less Bell to Answer,” by the Fifth Dimension, peaked at No. 2 that year.
Three years later, “Lost Horizon” split the team. David and Bacharach filed lawsuits against each other. Warwick sued both of them. All the cases eventually were settled, clearing the way for them to work together again.
David served as president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which licenses songs and distributes royalties, from 1980 to 1986. He also was chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which named an award after him, and the National Academy of Popular Music, the hall’s sponsor.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the sponsor of the Grammy Awards, gave him and Bacharach a Trustees Award in 1997. Two years later, he became the first American to win the Ivor Novello Award, the U.K. music industry’s top honor.
In May 2012, David and Bacharach received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. David was too ill to attend the ceremony, held at the Library of Congress, sponsor of the award.
Anne, his first wife, died in 1986. The couple had two sons, James and Craig. In 1988, he married Eunice Forester, a founder of the Los Angeles Music Center, who had two children from a previous marriage.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Charles W. Stevens at email@example.com
Bloomberg moderates all comments. Comments that are abusive or off-topic will not be posted to the site. Excessively long comments may be moderated as well. Bloomberg cannot facilitate requests to remove comments or explain individual moderation decisions.