Hal David, lyricist and songwriting partner to Burt Bacharach, has died at 91 at Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
David did the lyrics and Burt Bacharach wrote the music for hit after hit, with popular songs spanning decades. If you don’t believe me, go gawk at this list of Hal David songs from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You might need to get a meal in the middle, as it’s 13 pages long.
I had the chance to see David speak in 2009 as part of downtown L.A.'s Grand Performances series. He shared the stories of how he and Burt Bacharach shaped the songs that live on in people's memories for decades.
Here are nine awesome Hal David songs so you can enjoy just a dash of David’s legacy:
- Bacharach and David’s music was a big part of the lives of many of those who sang their songs, but the singer most iconically identified with their music is Dionne Warwick. My personal favorite: “Walk On By.”
- The impact of their music may be even greater in popular culture at large than just in the music world, as his songs appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. One of my earliest connections to Hal David’s music was hearing the song “(They Long To Be) Close To You” — on the Simpsons, where it served as Homer and Marge’s love theme.
- One of the most famous movie songs Bacharach and David did was “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
- David’s music is international — it’s helped make stars around the world, including giving Tom Jones one of his iconic hits in the whimsical “What’s New Pussycat?” written for the Woody Allen movie of the same name.
- David and Bacharach’s songs were so great that they were covered over and over, often even becoming a hit for multiple artists. One of the best examples of this is “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.” (David also loved parenthetical titles.) This song first became a hit for Lou Johnson in 1964, but rose to even greater prominence when given the synthpop, New Wave treatment by ’80s band Naked Eyes.
- These songs are mainstays in the American popular songbook. You can see by turning on just about any season of “American Idol,” where Bacharach was even a guest coach. One song that became a mainstay of the show from the first season onward is “A House Is Not A Home,” originally recorded by Dionne Warwick, memorably performed by Luther Vandross and many more.
- The classic “What The World Needs Now Is Love” became a morable anthem on the second season of American Idol, just months after the World Trade Center attacks.
- Hal David was a songwriter’s songwriter, approaching it like a job and producing an amazing catalog. His work was recognized along with partner Burt Bacharach in 2012 when they won the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, presented by President Barack Obama. Stevie Wonder performed their title song from the Michael Caine film "Alfie." In this video, President Obama also tells the story of David and Bacharach's career.
- Finally, one of my favorite Hal David/Burt Bacharach tunes — actually, two of them in one. It’s a mashup from “Glee,” (yes, I watch “Glee”) of “A House Is Not A Home” with another song that captures the heartsick feeling of life after a breakup. It’s ably covered by Matthew Morrison from “Glee” and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. Here’s to you, Hal David. Your fans are feeling the heartbreak of songs like this — and the joy of his soaring lyrics remembering David’s fantastic impact on the world.