Hal David 1921-2012

By | Published on Monday 3 September 2012

Hal David

Legendary American lyricist Hal David, perhaps best known for his many collaborations with Burt Bacharach, has died aged 91, after suffering complications related to a stroke.

Born in New York, David studied journalism at the city’s university and, after a stint in the US Army during World War II, mainly in the military’s entertainment unit, he started work as a copywriter at the New York Post. But writing songs was always his passion, and while copywriting by day he also contributed lyrics to various bandleaders of the era, including Sammy Kaye and Guy Lombardo.

As a songwriter, David started working at New York’s Brill Building, and it was there that he met Bacharach. The duo began to collaborate, and in 1957 wrote ‘Magic Moments’ together. Recorded by Perry Como, the song became a big hit the following year, and established Bacharach and David as a songwriting partnership.

In 1962 they began writing songs for Dionne Warwick, an alliance that led to a string of hits and classics, including ‘Don’t Make Me Over’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’. Topping the charts with Warwick, the duo also wrote for numerous other top singers of the sixties, including Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Gene Pitney, and also began to successfully write hit songs for movies.

Though it was a movie project that ultimately brought the Bacharach/David partnership to an end. The duo spent two years working on the music for the 1973 musical remake of ‘Lost Horizon’, and when the film was panned by critics and audiences alike, Bacharach did not respond well. For a time he based himself at his holiday home and refused to work, and in the years that followed legal battles ensued between the two hit makers, and between them and Warwick.

However, David continued to write, and to collaborate with a number of other composers, including Albert Hammond, Henry Mancini and John Barry, often on new movie themes. And in the early 1990s David, Bacharach and Warwick overcame past squabbles to collaborate again on the song ‘Sunny Weather Lover’.

Also active in the American music business, David joined the board of collecting society ASCAP in 1974 and served as its President from 1980 to 1986, and subsequently headed up the US Songwriters Hall Of Fame from 2001 and 2011. Meanwhile his oeuvre stood the test of time, his works, and especially those with Bacharach, becoming more loved and respected as the years went by. Earlier this year the duo were honoured with the Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song at a White House tribute event, though by that time David himself was too ill to attend.

He is survived by his wife Eunice David, who told reporters last night: “Even at the end, Hal always had a song in his head. He was always writing notes, or asking me to take a note down, so he wouldn’t forget a lyric”.