Last night the world of popular music was shaken with the death of Hal David, one half of one of the finest songwriting teams the world has ever known.
Born in New York City on May 25th 1921, Hal – the son of deli owner Gedalier and his wife Linda- met long-time collaborator Burt Bacharach in 1957, having already worked on material for singer Guy Lombardo and for the motion picture Two Gals And A Guy, amongst others. Bacharach and David’s works gelled perfectly, with Hal’s emotional, dramatic lyrics able to fit perfectly across Burt’s music- known for unusual time signatures, complex phrasing and a cinematic approach to backing instrumentation (the utilisation of orchestral backing, or instruments rarely found within pop music). Bacharach and David, as a songwriting duo, gave many artists in the 1960s and 70s their hits- Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Perry Como, Tom Jones, The Walker Brothers, Sandie Shaw, The Carpenters…the list goes on.
Many of their songs were passed between artists, meaning that several different singers recorded their own versions of songs within a relatively short period of time- ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’- one of The Walker Brother’s defining moments- was also recorded by Dionne Warwick (who many of the duo’s material was primarily intended for), while ‘The Look Of Love” was a hit for several singers. The two were also amongst those responsible for giving the genre known as Easy Listening a mainstream success which continued throughout the 1970s.
The songs of Bacharach and David are truly timeless- some of the most vibrant, most inspired and most emotional ever written. Often love songs, but with twists- heartfelt breakups, relationship closures and regrets- the pair also wrote a large amount of material that would be used within motion picture soundtracks.
Their influence has been long-lasting- many artists of a variety of genre have covered the pair’s songs. Issac Hayes practically re-wrote ‘The Look Of Love’ into a 11-minute-plus slow funk piece, while The Stranglers turned ‘Walk On By’ into a fairly claustrophobic post-punk song. Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy has been influenced a great deal by Bacharach and David, often covering their songs live, but his original material shares similarities- the cinematic orchestral nature of the songs and the use of various time signatures. At the other extreme, Mike Flowers (the self-proclaimed ‘King of Easy Listening’ and his band achieved fame (albeit short-lived) covering other artists’ material, such as The Doors and The Velvet Underground in the style of Bacharach and David- complete with full orchestral instrumentation.
Hal recieved many accolades over the years, including an induction into the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2011 (pictured below).
The legacy of the pair still remains, with current artists still mining the depths of pop music that the duo created. This legacy will not be forgotten.
Hal David- May 25th 1921- September 1st 2012. RIP.
(I would have created a Bacharach and David mixtape, but I couldn’t- the choices of songs and artists is far too vast to pare down into a handful of songs. Instead, I’d suggest simply looking yourself- chances are you already know quite a few of their songs- they have been radio staples for decades, and are set to continue in this way)