Hal David

Acclaimed songwriter Hal David died this week, at the age of 91. Born Harold Lane David in Manhattan, New York to Austrian immigrants in May 1921, his older brother, Mack, was also a songwriter (responsible for, among others, one you’ll all surely know: ‘Bibiddi-Bobbidi-Boo’ from Disney’s Cinderella).

After working as a copywriter for the New York Post, he followed his brother into Tin Pan Alley where he met Burt Bacharach, and thus began a most prolific partnership. Combining Bacharach’s melodies with David’s words, sometimes collaborating over the telephone, the duo would go on to achieve many hit singles over three decades; Grammy Awards (for example, for The Carpenters and ‘(They Long to Be) Close To You’); and an Oscar (for ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, the theme from the motion picture Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was, interestingly, rejected by both Bob Dylan and Ray Stevens and taken to the top of the charts in 1970 by Billy Joe “B.J.” Thomas).

What a songbook it is. There’s even one for The Hollies – from After the Fox, the cult favourite Peter Sellers film. (No, don’t click it, you’ll be singing it all day and then you’ll be sorry.)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the songs launched careers; they were particularly helpful to British Invasion acts in the 1960s. There were many chart-topping hit singles, their first major worldwide smash hit being ‘Magic Moments’ – for Perry Como, in 1957. By 1962, they were writing for Dionne Warwick, their muse, with whom they enjoyed a tremendous run of success (although, as Bacharach recalls, she did turn down ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’, so didn’t quite make the most of having first dibs on their songs).

When ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’ and B.J. Thomas were on top of the Billboard chart in 1970, ‘(They Long To Be) Close to You’ (The Carpenters), ‘One Less Bell to Answer’ (The 5th Dimension) and ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ (Dionne Warwick) were also in the Top 75.

David would later go on to collaborate with other composers, including John Barry and Albert Hammond, with whom he wrote ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before’ for Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias, an international hit in 1984. Yet he is best remembered for his work with Bacharach. Just last year they were awarded the Gershwin Prize for popular song by the US Library of Congress, the first time a song-writing team has received such an honour.

I’d like to know which of Hal David’s songs are your favourites, and which versions of them you like best. Here’s one of mine to listen to while you think – the very beautiful ‘Walk On By’, performed by Dionne Warwick – followed by several more. Some enjoyable alternative versions follow in brackets.

– ‘American Beauty Rose’, Frank Sinatra
– ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, Cilla Black
– ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, Dusty Springfield (also, more recently, The White Stripes)
– ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, Elvis Costello
– ‘Make It Easy on Yourself’, The Walker Brothers
– ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’, Sandie Shaw
– ‘Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa’, Gene Pitney
– ‘What’s New, Pussycat?’, Tom Jones
– ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’, Jackie DeShannon (not forgetting Tom Clay’s powerful 1971 remix, which has a connection to Pink Floyd – a prize for the first Irregular to tell me what that is)

Oh, and before you make the same mistake I almost made and include The Shirelles’ ‘Baby It’s You’ in your list; it was actually a collaboration between Burt Bacharach and Mack David, not Hal.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

51 thoughts on “Hal David”

  1. … I’ll go for Tom Jones’ “What’s Up…”

    The connection could be the use of samples for the recording (tape loops).

    Regards

    Taki

  2. True Story:

    I’ve had a few Fed. Hats off to Hal David first hand.

    In High School, 1970, Grade 9, with a baritone of which I lost a coin toss for a trumpet. I chose to play Raindrops… for my first music exam. Passed. Yeah!!! The teacher asked if I’d be interested in playing in the Beginners Band. I accepted wholeheartedly.

    A month later they asked if Ron (my future brother in law) would like to join the Intermediate Band. We said okay. Yeah. Little did we know that the previous Senior Band members graduated the year prior and the Band was well short of capacity to fill in. In other words, they were desperate. We dedicated ourselves for 4 years, including 2 more brothers from each side as time passed by.

    Eventually we came to London, England in 1974 due to fund raising. First time fliers on a jet plane and all. All this and only missing 3 days of High School at Central Technical H.S in Toronto in 4 years. Without ever picking up a guitar until later.

    I would also like to add, the actor who played in the The Green Mile (can’t remember his name, for shame) with Tom Hanks passed away this past weekend. He was a lovable gentle Giant. Peace!

    1. In The Green Mile Michael Clarke Duncan played the part of John Coffey (” … like the drink, only not spelled the same”, a gentle giant of a man (in real life, as well) who was almost childlike in his simplicity but with an incredible gift. His portrayal, which brought him an Oscar nomination, was extraordinary and brings me to tears each and every time I watch the film.

      “I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?” ~ John Coffey, The Green Mile

      Isn’t that the truth?

      Peace and love to all of you, always!

    1. You got it: The Blackberries provided Pink Floyd with backing vocals on tour in 1973, 1974 and 1975, as well as on the Wish You Were Here album.

      I must write about them one of these days, as they have worked with so many of my favourite musicians.

      The prize is a ‘Why Pink Floyd?’ T-shirt, so please let me know which size you’d like and where I should send it.

    2. Congratulations and well done, Pavlov.

      FEd giving away prizes!!! It’s just like the good old days. Is this a sign of things to come??? (I wish.)

  3. This was the first cover of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ I heard.

    Joss Stone did a great interpretation of ‘Alfie’ and then there was this.

    Will add more thoughts as time permits…

  4. Walk On By is one of my favourite songs of all-time. Thanks for choosing it. Cyndi Lauper’s version is really emotional but the original is still the best. (It usually is!)

  5. Oh, good grief and THANK YOU!! A rare day as I’m not known for winning prizes. 🙂

    It would indeed be a great blog topic FEd.

  6. A wonderful voice, Louis Armstrong, sang, We Have All The Time In The World.

    I chose that because of the beauty of Armstrong’s voice first of all but I’m kind of annoyed for Armstrong that he took it on because we don’t actually have all the time in the world.

    I’m extremely angry about that actually, when I was young I thought life was a long long time. Now I know it’s nowhere, absolutely nowhere near long enough. (I can’t remember how to type an angry emoticon.)

    ash :))

  7. I have no prize but just a little challenge for FEd or anyone else interested in French culture:

    Hal David wrote the lyrics for a song that he adapted from a French song made famous by Edith Piaf in 1961. Which one? (French and English titles, please.)

    Clue: ‘Inception’ movie.

    1. My Mother introduced me to the little sparrow, Edith Piaf!

      She has the best record collection. She made the mistake in the 1970s and 1980s of coming home with big piles of “flea market 45s.” To broaden our exposure to past popular music. But I had an evil brother who played annoying songs like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” over and over in the room next to mine! To this day, I cannot hear either of those songs without having a severe case of stomach upset, my deepest apologies to Hal David lovers.

      We went to see Piaf’s grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery years ago! Seeing her final resting place was one of my most fond memories of Paris.

      “La Vie en Rose,” or “The Life in Pink,” am I correct Michele?

    2. How nice to see that some of you show interest in Edith Piaf. 🙂

      You both came close to the right answer but actually you are wrong, sorry:

      Hal David wrote the English lyrics of Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ (‘No Regrets’).

      And his brother Mack David wrote the English lyrics of Piaf’s ‘La Vie En Rose’. Here, a beautiful rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’ by Louis Armstrong.

      No T-shirt, but all my respect. 🙂

    3. I don’t think it was La Vie en Rose. La Vie en Rose was a hit in the late 1940s, not ’61, and I believe the English translation was done by Hal David’s brother, Mack.

      I’m going to have to cheat and look at the Inception soundtrack for the clue. 🙁

  8. Hi Fed,

    Remember the Cameron Diaz version of I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself from My Best Friend’s Wedding? Years later, it’s still funny. I like several of these, but I think I will go with that one.

  9. Stop the bus Fed. I was going to put the Blackberries. Wah wah, spits dummy out, I wanna T-shirt.

    Damian

    P.S. Medium.

  10. Joking aside, I never realised all these songs came from one person. And all brilliant. Did anyone watch Top Of The Pops 1969 about three weeks ago? It was in colour, it was hosted by the late Jimmy Saville and a German woman. First on was Adam Faith. Sandie Shaw, Marmalade, etc. Apart from the dancing it looked like it was filmed yesterday. I thought it was brilliant..

    By the way if you don’t have a T-shirt in my size, I’ll put up with one of David’s old guitars.

    Kind regards
    Damian

  11. A little YouTube delving leads me to this version of what’s probably my favourite … although heaven knows it’s surely not Elvis Costello joining Big Burt … nice guitar and can’t knock the sentiment.

    1. Excuse my ignorance (which proves that I haven’t spent too much of my life watching Austin Powers Movies!) but further investigation shows that this version is Burt B and the Posies.

  12. Hal and Burt, a prolific partnership indeed FEd.

    Care of the songbook link you provided I almost managed to complete an A-Z of his compositions, with a couple of exceptions.

    Alfie – Cilla Black
    Be True To Yourself – Bobby Vee
    (They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters
    Don’t Say I Didn’t Tell You So – Dionne Warwick
    Everybody’s Out of Town – B.J. Thomas
    Faker Faker – Eligibles
    Gotta Get a Girl – Frankie Avalon
    Hasbrook Heights – Burt Bacharach
    I Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin
    Juanita’s Place – Burt Bacharach Orchestra
    Knowing When To Leave – Helen Reddy
    Living Together, Growing Together – Fifth Dimension
    Message To Martha – Adam Faith
    Ninety Nine Miles From L.A. – Art Garfunkel
    Only Love Can Break a Heart – Gene Pitney
    Promise Her Anything – Tom Jones
    Questo Amore e’ Sempre – Dalida
    Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – B.J. Thomas
    Send Me No Flowers – Doris Day
    This Guy’s In Love With You – Herb Alpert
    Underneath the Overpass – Jo Stafford
    Valerie – James Darren
    Wishin’ and Hopin’ –D usty Springfield
    X
    You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) – The Stylistics
    Z

    1. Hi Ken, for ‘Y’ , how about, ‘This EmptY Place’ by the Fortunes?

      For ‘Z’, how about, ‘The Last One To Be Loved’ by Dionne Warwick?

      I know, it’s stretching it. 🙂

    2. I always loved Everybody’s Out of Town… Wishin’ and Hopin’… You’ll Never Get to Heaven. Great songs.

  13. Herp Albert’s This Guy’s in Love with you, just brilliant. But D Gilmour’s voice would suit “Anyone Who Had a Heart”.

    One of the first albums I ever bought was The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection. Bet you’d have never thought it!

    Happy Days,
    Simon J

  14. I don’t know which of Hal David’s songs are my favourites (he wrote or co-wrote more than 700, didn’t he?), but my favourite lyric sure is this one from ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’:

    “What do you get when you kiss a girl?
    You get enough germs to catch pneumonia”

    :))

  15. Whatever your taste in music, whether it be rock, pop, punk or prog, I guess that along the way you have been touch at some point be a Bacharach and David song.

  16. Many aniversaries this month, with mixed feelings, as there is something to celebrate, with 25 years of Momentary Laps of Reason, one of my fave PF albums, and exactly 5 years ago there was the premier of RTN at the Odeon, which I had the privilege to attend. But then tomorrow is a very sad day, with Richard Wright´s death 4 years ago.

    RIP Richard, you are being missed.

  17. Amazing! How do you do that?

    Don’t you find that there are times in life when you see something and that is your exclamation? That was my exclamation when reading this post.
    How did Hal David and Burt Bacharach come up with so many hits?

    I think Dionne Warwick has to be one of my favourite singers.

    I Say A Little Prayer has a special meaning for me, for my lovely children. (Who, I have put out of my head completely today!!! While I have some time off and turn my stereo UP! Listening to Division Bell. 🙂 )

    Best wishes,
    Rose.

  18. What an amazing talent. Like so many irregulars (I’m sure), I had no idea these songs all came from the same place.

    Irregulars will recall that my wife and I got our daughter seven months ago. We are still foster parents, but we are confident that the court will grant us a full adoption eventually. Madison is ten months old now. We have watched this child grow and have seen her delightfully cheerful personality emerge. She likes to smile and laugh a lot, and she likes to play. And she is strong willed. I was at a meeting yesterday when my wife noticed that Madison was moving herself to a part of the living room where she doesn’t usually go, towards a basket where we keep her toys. She picked out each toy and put each one aside until she found the one she wanted to play with. Then she moved back into the main part of the room and sat herself down to play with it. No assistance from either of us. How wonderful is that, for a ten month-old who can’t even crawl yet? (She is learning how to walk, with our help.)

  19. Planes and Boats and Trains is my fave.

    This is slightly off topic, but funny: Last Spring I saw Roger Waters perform the Wall at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The parking structure for the event is many multiple levels deep. Prior to the concert hundreds were still sitting in their cars getting drunk and high. And arriving at the concert–corkscrewing down the thing–I had my windows open and you wouldn’t believe the dozens of cars that were playing “Live in Gdansk.” No Waters solo albums. Just level after level of cars playing original Floyd recordings, but mostly “Live in Gdansk.”

    “If Mr. Gilmour was here he would smile” –me thought.

  20. See what happens when you work on Sunday, FEd… Where have the lovely old emoticons gone?

    Could you pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaase bring them back?

  21. Please forget my remark about the old emoticons, FEd, I just noticed today the new photos added to the blog gallery, wow! did you do that during the weekend too?

    How nice to see (our beloved) Susan and her beautiful smile, Ian’s amazing glass sculpture, Pavlov’s son so proud with The Blog prize, Cachou (who reads The Blog on a regular basis, you know…;) ).

    Great job.

    1. Thank you. The lovely old emoticons are back now. They are always a casualty of my tinkering.

    2. So. . . where are the emoticons? Did you mean the old, old ones we used to have just above the comments window? They were so easy to use, I miss them. 🙁

      ash

  22. Wishing I were a bacterium on one of Gilmour’s guitars while he plucks away absentminded melodies at home. Random comment from an old Blog friend. 🙂

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