At 90, Still Writing
On the eve of receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hal David -- the Oscar-winning lyricist behind Dionne Warwick -- says he wants to write for Adele.
Some younger folks might not immediately recognize his name, but they've heard lyrics written by Academy Award winner Hal David. From 1957 to 1974, David, who turned 90 in May, and collaborator Burt Bacharach produced a library of popular songs that includes such standards as "(They Long to Be) Close to You," "Always Something There to Remind Me" and the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" from 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They also wrote the music for the 1968 Broadway musical Promises, Promises. The songwriting team found their muse in a young Dionne Warwick, who rocketed to stardom singing such Bacharach-David tunes as "Don't Make Me Over," "Walk on By," "Message to Michael" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" More recently, their songs have been covered by the cast of Glee, the White Stripes and the Flaming Lips. On Oct. 14, the New York native will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The celebration continues Oct. 17 with a one-night musical tribute to the lyricist, Love Sweet Love at the Mark Taper Forum, benefiting the Blue Ribbon of the Music Center and the ASCAP Foundation. David, who started out penning songs to entertain GIs in the South Pacific during World War II and now sits on the ASCAP board, recently chatted with THR.
Why did you become a lyricist?
I became a lyricist because my oldest brother, Mack David, became a lyricist and composer. He came out here from New York and did very well. He was my role model.
What do you think of popular music today?
I don't hear as much music as I used to because there's very little radio music today. The music is on Sirius, on the Internet. But when I'm in my car I listen to Sirius, and there's an awful lot of good stuff. Michael Buble and Josh Groban are two of my favorites.
Which artists would you like to write lyrics for that you haven't yet?
I'd like to write for Kelly Clarkson. And Adele is fantastic -- she's the hottest thing around.
So you could you see yourself writing something for her?
I don't want to sound like a bragger, but I think I can write for anyone.
Are you a fan of rap music?
I'm not crazy about it. There's no melody. It's all rhythm, and I grew up with melody.
Your collaboration with Burt Bacharach produced numerous hits and made Dionne Warwick a star.
In 1962, Dionne came into our office in the Brill Building in Manhattan to do some demos for us. She sang popular music with a gospel sound and rhythm and just blew us away. Her very first recording we produced, "Don't Make Me Over," was a hit. We wrote just about every hit she sang. We were a trio, really. Burt and I worked together for 17 years. Eleven or 12 of those were with Dionne, too.
What comes first, the music or the lyrics, when a song is written?
It doesn't make a difference. When we wrote "Alfie," most of the lyrics came first; when we wrote "One Less Bell to Answer," most of the music came first. Very often we'd sit in a room and pound out a song simultaneously.
You're an Oscar winner for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," which you wrote for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What, if anything, is different about writing songs for movies?
You have a story, so to a certain extent you don't have to dig as deep to find the idea. The scene, the title and the ending all tell you something and motivate you.
Do you still write lyrics?
Yes. I'm working with Charlie Fox on a musical stage version of The Turning Point that will hopefully go to Broadway.
Do you write with your head or heart?
It's my imagination. But "What the World Needs Now Is Love," one of my favorite songs, came from my heart.
WALK OF FAME
Friday, Oct. 14
6752 Hollywood Blvd., in front of the Musicians Institute
Guest speakers: Steve Tyrell, Paul Williams
DAVID'S 5 BIGGEST HITS
1. "Raindrops Keep Fallin'on My Head"
- Artist: B.J. Thomas
- Debut: Nov. 1, 1969
- Peak: No. 1 (four weeks); certified gold
- On the Chart: 22 weeks
2. "(They Long to Be) Close to You"
- Artist: The Carpenters
- Debut: June 20, 1970
- Peak: No. 1 (four weeks); gold
- On the Chart: 17 weeks
3. "This Guy's in Love With You"
- Artist: Herb Alpert
- Debut: May 18, 1968
- Peak: No. 1 (four weeks); gold
- On the Chart: 14 weeks
4. "One Less Bell to Answer"
- Artist: The 5th Dimension
- Debut: Oct. 24, 1970
- Peak: No. 2 (two weeks) platinum
- On the Chart: 19 weeks
5. "What's New Pussycat?"
- Artist: Tom Jones
- Debut: June 19, 1965
- Peak :No. 3 (two weeks)
- On the Chart: 12 weeks