Born: May 25, 1921; Died: September 1, 2012.
Hal David, who with his collaborator Burt Bacharach wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 1960s, has died of a stroke at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 91. From their studio in the famous Brill Building in New York, Bacharach the composer and David the lyricist wrote songs that would be covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin and would continue to be popular 50 years after they were written, with contemporary singers such as Rumer and Dot Allison singing their praises. Allison even wrote a track with the lyricist for her 1999 debut album Afterglow.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Austrian Jews, David always wanted to follow his older brother Mack into the songwriting business. Mack had had success with lyrics for I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine (recorded by a young Elvis Presley) and the English version of Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose. But Mack discouraged his younger brother, saying there was more money in advertising. David started to study journalism at college before dropping out and then saw out the war in Hawaii in a military entertainment unit where he wrote songs and sketches to entertain the troops.
The experience cemented his desire to become a songwriter. His first recorded song, Horizontal, performed by the jazz singer Bunny Pendleton, was banned by the authorities because the title was thought to have sexual connotations and though he would write songs for the likes of Sinatra it wasn't until he met Bacharach in 1956 that he began to make a true impact.
In some ways they seemed an unlikely creative couple. David was a devoted husband (he married Anne Rauchman in 1947) and father, who commuted in from Long Island to the Brill Building every day while Bacharach would become the epitome of sixties swinging bachelors ("the playboy of the western world", as one acquaintance called him), known for squiring the likes of Hollywood star Angie Dickinson. But together they forged a partnership that would create hits for the likes of Dusty Springfield and the Carpenters among many others.
To do so, though, required the input of the singer who was to become most associated with the songwriting team. In their early years together they wrote hits including The Story Of My Life for Marty Robbins and Magic Moments for Perry Como and their songs were recorded by anodyne singers like Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee and Jack Jones, who recorded Wives And Lovers. "These are the kinds of empty-headed songs which Bacharach and David wrote throughout their careers, that make some people wince -" admitted Ken Emerson in his history of the Brill Building era, Always Magic In The Air. "Take away the zest of R&B and gospel or the tang of rock 'n' roll, and their music tended towards the insipid - Bacharach and David weren't white Negroes; they were white bread."
But when the pair discovered the singer Dionne Warwick they found a voice that was tough enough to add fibre to their songs. Her performances gave songs such as Walk On By and Anyone Who Had A Heart an emotional intensity that enhanced the complexity of Bacharach's arrangements and the storytelling simplicity of David's lyrics.
The sixties saw the peak of Bacharach and David's partnership as they penned hit after hit, including I Say A Little Prayer and I'll Never Fall In Love Again. In 1969 their song Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head, written for the movie Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, earned them an Oscar. Their songs offered a slick, urbane alternative for those people who didn't go to Woodstock or drop acid.
They even had success on Broadway with the musical Promises, Promises, a 1968 adaptation of Billy Wilder's film The Apartment. But their attempt to follow it up with a musical version of Frank Capra's 1937 film Lost Horizon was a disaster. The songwriting team split and Warwick ended up suing them both.
David continued to write and in collaboration with Albert Hammond wrote To All The Girls I've Loved Before, a hit in 1984 for Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. He collaborated with John Barry on the title song for the James Bond film Moonraker and with Henry Mancini on The Greatest Gift in The Return Of The Pink Panther. In 1988 he married again, to Eunice David, his first wife having died the year before. He is survived by Eunice, sons Jim and Craig, three grandchildren and two stepsons.
By the nineties the vogue for easy listening had reminded everyone of Bacharach and David's golden era and David was recognised as an eminence grise by younger songwriters. Not that that seemed to matter to him. "The important thing is what one does," he once said, "not one's name. The songs live, the writer doesn't. You just hope your songs outlast you."
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