I'll Say A Little Prayer
September 1, 2012 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Legendary lyricist Hal David, most famously partnered with composer Burt Bacharach, and countless pop performers ranging from Dionne Warwick to Tom Jones to The Carpenters and beyond, has died at age 91.
posted by 2N2222 (36 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those Bacharach & David songs are truly some of the best pop music ever made. One less bell to answer, today.
posted by Guy Smiley at 6:05 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bacharach and David used to write his favorite songs.
posted by mollweide at 6:30 PM on September 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


A long life and a full songbook. Alav ha-shalom.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:51 PM on September 1, 2012


RIP, Hal David. Nice that he had such a good long run, all the way to 91. Just noticed that we share a birthday.

I think some song links are certainly in order here...

This performance (Abbey Road studio, 1965) of the magnificent Alfie is not as well known for most Americans as the Dionne Warwick recording, but it is stunning nonetheless. Particularly for that window onto a time when an entire orchestra and the singer would record a live, single take together. It's a glimpse of the kind of musicianship and the kind of approach that is mostly a thing of the past. This "making of" video is definitely worth a watch. Dionne, of course, brought a smokier, gentler, more soulful character to the song (which, stylistically, I personally prefer) but Cilla Black's live performance with full orchestra there at Abbey Road in 1965 is still riveting and very, very impressive.

Meanwhile, it was of course Dionne's recording of I Say a Little Prayer (with its radio-friendly, mid/late-60s pop sprightliness) that is most familiar, Aretha Franklin, of course, gave it another life altogether. And check Aretha's backup vocalists. DAMN!

Otherwise, Do You Know the Way To San Jose always struck me as a really successful marriage of lyric wordiness with melody. And there aren't a lot of singers who could have pulled it off with the relaxed ease and finesse of Dionne Warwick.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 PM on September 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was waiting for this post. What an amazing body of work. ("One Less Bell To Answer" is a heart-breaker. Marilyn McCoo had such a gorgeous voice.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:04 PM on September 1, 2012


.

I've held on to this quote from Hal David, which inspires my painting:

In writing I search for believability, simplicity, and emotional impact. Believability is the easiest of the three to accomplish. One thing a lyricist must learn is not to fall in love with his own lines. Once you learn that, you can walk away from the lyric and look at it with a reasonable degree of objectivity. Often I discard a good line because it is inconsistent with the basic idea. If the line happens to be witty or sad in a particularly fresh way it hurts me to take it out. But that's part of the pain of writing.

Simplicity is much harder to achieve. It is easy to be simple and bad. Being simple and good is very difficult. The sophisticated Cole Porter, the earthy Irving Berlin, the poetic Oscar Hammerstein, and the witty Lorenz Hart all have one thing in common - simplicity, the kind that is good. I must also mention a special favorite of mine, Johnny Mercer. Whether he is being poetic or humorous, he is never complicated. I seek this elusive thing called simplicity always. I hope I sometimes achieve it.

- Hal David
posted by artdrectr at 7:05 PM on September 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Those Bacharach & David songs are truly some of the best pop music ever made. Indeed.

One of my favourite covers, here's Elvis Costello's 1978 version of I Just don't know what to do with myself.
posted by carter at 7:05 PM on September 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I also find it interesting that Bacaharach/David, a songwriting team squarely associated with a quintessentially urbane sophistication, scored their first hit song (1957, the year I was born!) with a country artist, namely Marty Robbins. The Story of My Life. It's a pretty forgettable little ditty, but, hey... it was their first hit!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:22 PM on September 1, 2012


Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote some of the iconic music of the '60s and '70s. It is always hard to lose an artist of this caliber.
posted by HuronBob at 7:40 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. Sorry to hear he is gone, but oh so thankful for everything he gave the world during his time here.

.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Walk on By by Dionne Warwick
What the World Needs Now (is love sweet love) by Jackie DeShannon
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by BJ Thomas (from the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:58 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's New Pussycat? by Tom Jones
Wives and Lovers by Jack Jones (lyrics very much of the era!)
Close to You by The Carpenters
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


He co-wrote many of the songs of my childhood. What an incredible repertoire.
posted by vverse23 at 8:34 PM on September 1, 2012


I'll never fall in love again.

.
posted by box at 8:36 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that this song was 1.) a Hal David composition and 2.) not an 80s synth-pop original until today.
posted by dhens at 8:44 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that this song was 1.) a Hal David composition

It's a Burt Bacharach composition, with lyrics by Hal David

/pedant
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 PM on September 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll Never Fall in Love Again by Dionne Warwick
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:55 PM on September 1, 2012


I Say a Little Prayer is a stunningly perfect song.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:00 PM on September 1, 2012


I had no idea he wrote the lyrics for "To All the Girls I've Loved Before."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:18 PM on September 1, 2012


.

(by coincidence I ran into this just earlier this evening)
posted by ndfine at 9:35 PM on September 1, 2012



posted by nickyskye at 9:52 PM on September 1, 2012



posted by Smart Dalek at 10:05 PM on September 1, 2012


Smith and Mighty
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:17 PM on September 1, 2012


What an amazing talent, beautiful lyrics on the other side of the vale tonight.

.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:18 PM on September 1, 2012


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posted by luckynerd at 11:57 PM on September 1, 2012


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posted by El Brendano at 1:50 AM on September 2, 2012


Terribly sad news. I have had the priviledge of seeing Burt Bacharach in concert twice and his and David's songs really stand the test of time.

The world of music is a poorer one today.

.
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 2:43 AM on September 2, 2012


... a chair is still a chair
even if there's no one sitting there ...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:37 AM on September 2, 2012


.
posted by tommasz at 6:39 AM on September 2, 2012


I didn't see these linked above, but if they were, my apologies. Two great obits from NPR and the NYTimes) give a great deal of biographical information, and discuss Mr. David's business relationship with Burt Bacharach in depth. A third, at Entertainment Weekly, also mentions that Bacharach and David received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a White House tribute concert attended by President Barack Obama this past May.
More than 55 years after their first songs hit the airwaves, Obama said "these guys have still got it." He noted their music is still being recorded by such artists as Alicia Keys and John Legend.

"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."


David's full catalog includes over 700 songs.
"Now, how do I go about the business of writing lyrics? I wish I really knew. If I did it would make writing much easier for me."
Official Site. In 1972, he was inducted into the ASCAP songwriter's Hall of Fame.

* What the World Needs Now
* Randrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
* Magic Moments
* (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me
* I Say a Little Prayer
* What's New Pussycat?
* Wishin' and Hopin'
* (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance
* Walk on By
* One Less Bell to Answer
* To All The Girls I've Loved Before
* Broken Hearted Melody
* Don't Make Me Over
* Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Also: Fresh Air Interview: Burt Bacharach and Hal David, from May 5, 2010.
posted by zarq at 7:08 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like all I do is go to memorial (threads) these days. But thanks to everyone for the fantastic contributions of info and links. And omg Aretha's version of Prayer. ( Well, her take on anything. It occurs to me that should I outlive her, what a hard day that will be.)

And this is reminding me how many of his lyrics are so stuck in my mind.

"LA is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car, In a week, maybe two, they'll make you a star. Weeks turn in years, how quick they pass. And all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas."

That's why I love good lyric writing- an entire story in a few concise word pictures.

I found it interesting that Promises, Promises was the only musical they ever produced. IIRC correctly the arduous process didn't suit their temperaments.

byw Streisand also had an interesting medley of "One Less Bell"with "A House is Not a Home." http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=99cCk3KtBNU
posted by NorthernLite at 7:31 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, my mother had WNEW-AM on all day. And that was where I first heard Bacharach/David's songs for the first time. Jack Jones' "Wives and Lovers" sticks in my head as probably the first. I don't know to what extent its minatory message was in/out-of step with the times, but it's pretty unique in my experience as a popular song that basically tells women to shape up or otherwise not blame their husbands when they start chippying around with their secretaries.

Briefly, i.e., a handshake, met Mr. David in Madrid at a reception many years later. Too shy to ask him about his songs. Kate Pierson from The B-52s was at the same event. They did not perform together, unfortunately.

At any rate, Bacharach and David are my favorite songwriters of the Silver Age of the American Songbook, so, aav to Mr. David.

.
posted by the sobsister at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rats. And thanks for the wonderful songs, Mr. David.

.
posted by bearwife at 2:03 PM on September 2, 2012


The great Elvis Costello cover of "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" in Austin Powers (w/ Bacharach on piano). which introduced a new generation to this song.
posted by beisny at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2012


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posted by Madamina at 3:10 PM on September 2, 2012


I didn't realize that this song yt was 1.) a Hal David composition and 2.) not an 80s synth-pop original until today.

Neither did I! But listening to it in that style, it is obviously Bacharach/David. Fascinating.
posted by gjc at 5:22 PM on September 2, 2012


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