Reading about the death of Hal David, I marvelled at his extraordinary career. He met Burt Bacharach in the legendary Brill Building in New York in 1957 and one of the famous songwriting partnerships was born. They scored their first hit with The Story of My Life, which US country singer Marty Robbins took to the top of the country chart for four weeks in 1957, and this was followed by Magic Moments sung by Perry Como,which topped the UK chart for eight weeks in 1958.
David and Bacharach met Dionne Warwick in 1961, started writing songs for her in 1962, and the hits came one after another. Don’t Make Me Over , a Bacharach-David composition, became Warwick’s first hit in early 1963. From then until mid-1971, the three spent almost every month on the Billboard charts.
David and Bacharach scored hits with other singers, too: Wishin’ and Hopin’ was a Dusty Springfield hit, Close to You became a Carpenters classic, What the World Needs Now Is Love a hit for Jackie DeShannon, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head a memorable chartbuster by BJ Thomas, What’s New Pussycat a Tom Jones hit.
What’s New Pussycat as sung (?) by a screaming Tom Jones is the only Bacharach-David big hit that I don’t like. Their music sounds good even as instrumentals. I have never heard the lyrics of Baby Elephant Walk but remember what a catchy instrumental it was on the soundtrack of the movie, Hatari.
The obituaries say the duo also wrote for the Beatles. But Baby, It’s You – which was recorded by the Beatles and was a big hit for Smith – was not a Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition. Bacharach wrote that song with Mack David, Hal David’s elder brother.
Bacharach and Hal David did not work together for 20 years after their musical, Lost Horizon, bombed in 1973.
President Obama praised the duo when they were awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Award for Popular Song. “Above all, they stayed true to themselves,” Obama said. “And with an unmistakable authenticity, they captured the emotions of our daily lives – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.”
My favourite Bacharach-Gershwin songs?
Walk on By, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, Wishin’ and Hopin’, I Say a Little Prayer, Close to You, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, I Will Never Fall in Love Again.