Prolific hit maker Hal David has passed away aged 91

Songwriter Harold Lane David, who wrote the lyrics to dozens of timeless hit songs alongside his long-time contributor Burt Bacharach, has died at the age of 91.

Hal David, right, with Burt Bacharach

David and Bacharach penned a string of hits for Dionne Warwick, including Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and I Say a Little Prayer, and their film work included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, which they won an Oscar for. The prolific pair also wrote for other performers including Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Louis Armstrong and the Carpenters, with many of their songs going on to become much loved pieces of the pop music canon such as (They Long To Be) Close To You, What’s New Pussycat? and Magic Moments.

The lyricist’s wife, Eunice, told the Associated Press news agency that “even at the end, Hal always had a song in his head. He was always writing notes, or asking me to take a note down, so he wouldn’t forget a lyric.”

(L-R) Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick and Hal David.

Success wasn’t limited to the music and movie industry either, with the hit Broadway musical comedy, Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film, The Apartment that won David and Bacharach a Grammy in 1969. They also earned another Oscar nomination for best song in 1967 for their work on the James Bond spoof, Casino Royale. In 2011, Hal David and Burt Bacharach were awarded the Gershwin Prize for popular song by the US Library of Congress, the first songwriting team to receive the honour.

Hal David, lyricist, born 25 May 1921; died 1 September 2012

Like all good things however, their partnership came to an end amid legal battles with Dionne Warwick over royalty fees and unfulfilled contracts. The bitter battles with Warwick, arguably the artist who enjoyed they enjoyed their most productive and successful working relationship with, saw that the legendary duo didn’t work together again for 20 years. While Bacharach used other lyricists, David withdrew from songwriting, emerging again in 1984 to collaborate with Albert Hammond on To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before for Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

In a statement, the president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Paul Williams, commented:

“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. 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.”

David joined the board of the ASCAP in 1974, serving as president from 1980 to 1986. He was also head of the Songwriters Hall of Fame from 2001 to 2011, and was Chairman Emeritus at his death. His first wife, Anne, died in 1987. He is survived by their two sons and by Eunice, his second wife.

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