Legendary Lyricist Hal David Dies at 91
The songwriter worked with Burt Bacharach on dozens of classic songs, including Oscar winner "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer."
Hal David, the Oscar-winning lyricist who teamed with Burt Bacharach to form one of the most sensational hitmaking teams in the history of popular music, has died. He was 91.
David died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke, his wife Eunice said. He had suffered a major stroke in March and was stricken again Tuesday, she said.
"Even at the end, Hal always had a song in his head," she told The Associated Press. "He was always writing notes, or asking me to take a note down, so he wouldn't forget a lyric.
In the 1960s and beyond, David and Bacharach produced some of the most memorable songs for movies, television and recording artists. They received an Oscar in 1970 for “Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head,” recorded by B.J. Thomas for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a Tony nomination and a Grammy for the score of Promises, Promises, which debuted in 1968 on Broadway.
The team found their muse in a young Dionne Warwick, who rocketed to stardom singing such Bacharach-David tunes as "Don't Make Me Over," "Always Something There to Remind Me," "Alfie," "Walk on By," "Message to Michael," “I Say a Little Prayer" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"
Their songs also have been recorded by the likes of The Carpenters, Herb Alpert, Marty Robbins, Perry Como, The 5th Dimension, Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones and more recently by such contemporary acts as Alicia Keys, The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips and the cast of Glee.
The pair had No. 1 hits in the U.S. with Alpert's "This Guy's in Love With You" in April 1968, with the famed trumpeter making in his vocal debut; Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," which debuted in November 1969; and The Carpenters' "(They Long to Be) Close to You," which bowed in June 1970.
The 5th Dimension's heartfelt "One Less Bell to Answer" from 1970 reached No. 2, and "What's New, Pussycat?" from the sexy British singer Jones got as high as No. 3 in 1965.
A native of New York, David started out penning songs to entertain GIs in the South Pacific during World War II. He worked as a copywriter at The New York Post, then wrote for Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo and other bandleaders before hooking up with Bacharach. He told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he became a lyricist because his oldest brother, Mack -- also a lyricist and composer who came west from New York -- was his role model. (Mack David wrote “I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine” for Patti Page.)
David and Bacharach scored their first big hit with "Magic Moments," a million-selling record for Como in 1957. Five years later, they met Warwick.
"In 1962, Dionne came into our office in the Brill Building in Manhattan to do some demos for us," he told THR. "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."
David and Bacharach were a team from 1957 until their 1973 musical remake of Lost Horizon, on which they had worked for two years, bombed at the box office.
Bacharach and David sued each other, and Warwick sued them both. The cases were settled out of court in 1979, and the three went their separate ways. They reconciled in 1992 for Warwick's recording of "Sunny Weather Lover."
After splitting with Bacharach, David collaborated with Albert Hammond on "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," a 1984 hit for Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson that reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100; with Henry Mancini on "The Greatest Gift" for The Return of the Pink Panther (1975); and with John Barry on the title song of the James Bond film Moonraker (1979).
David received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October, and in May, he and Bacharach, 83, were given the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington from President Obama. David was unable to attend because of his stroke.
“Award-winning lyricist Hal David was an American songwriting treasure. His legacy of more than five decades of music has inspired fans, performers and other songwriters with its diversity and longevity," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. "He will be missed, but his rich body of work will be with us forever.”
David joined the board of ASCAP in 1974 and served as its president from 1980-86. He was head of the Songwriters Hall of Fame from 2001-11 and chairman emeritus at his death.
"As a lyric writer, Hal was simple, concise and poetic -- conveying volumes of meaning in fewest possible words and always in service to the music," ASCAP's current president, the songwriter Paul Williams, said in a statement. "It is no wonder that so many of his lyrics have become part of our everyday vocabulary and his songs ... the backdrop of our lives."
In addition to his wife, survivors include sons Jim and Craig and three grandchildren. His first wife, Anne, died in 1987.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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