Hal David: ‘Raindrops’ lyricist dies at 91

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hal David was a man of simple words.

A writer by trade — and a journalist by education — Mr. David had a knack for encapsulating love, earnestness and a wry sense of humor into a melody that was just a few minutes long. “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” the 1960s earworm he wrote with Burt Bacharach, was a rhyming how-to for gals looking to snag a man. With a wink, it snagged a new generation of fans when it opened the 1997 Julia Roberts film “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

Through theater, film and TV, Mr. David’s songs transcended the time they were written to become classics. He and Mr. Bacharach were one of the most successful songwriting teams in modern history.

The 91-year-old Mr. David, who died Saturday of complications from a stroke four days earlier in Los Angeles, “always had a song in his head,” said his wife, Eunice David. Even at the end, “he was always writing notes, or asking me to take a note down, so he wouldn’t forget a lyric.”

The songwriting duo’s hits included “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” ”(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” Many of the top acts of their time, from Barbra Streisand to Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin, recorded their music.

But the collaboration for which they were best known came in 1962, when they began writing for a young singer named Dionne Warwick.

Miss Warwick’s versatile voice could convey the emotion of Mr. David’s lyrics and handle the changing patterns of Mr. Bacharach’s melodies. Together the trio created a chain of hits: “Don’t Make Me Over,” ”Walk On By,” ”I Say a Little Prayer,” ”Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” ”Always Something There to Remind Me” (which later was a hit for the 1980s synth pop band Naked Eyes), among others.

They were a “triangle marriage that worked,” Miss Warwick wrote in her memoir, “My Life, As I See It.” Mr. Bacharach was “the handsome one,” and Mr.  David was level-headed — a “thoughtful, gentle, sincere” man — Miss Warwick wrote.

Ever the writer (he studied journalism at New York University), Mr. David said in a 1999 interview that he thought of songwriting as telling a narrative.

“The songs should be like a little film, told in three or four minutes. Try to say things as simply as possible, which is probably the most difficult thing to do,” he said.

The New York-based writer often flew to Los Angeles, where he and Mr. Bacharach holed up for weeks of intense songwriting. They also conferred by telephone, a method that birthed “I Say a Little Prayer.”

When a song went nowhere, they stuck it in a desk drawer and left it there for months.

In a brief essay on his website, Mr. David recalled having an idea for a song for “at least two years before showing it to Burt.”

“I was stuck,” he wrote. “I kept thinking of lines like, ‘Lord, we don’t need planes that fly higher or faster …’ and they all seemed wrong. Why, I didn’t know. But the idea stayed with me.

“Then, one day, I thought of, ‘Lord, we don’t need another mountain,’ and all at once I knew how the lyric should be written. Things like planes and trains and cars are manmade, and things like mountains and rivers and valleys are created by someone or something we call God. There was now a oneness of idea and language instead of a conflict. It had taken me two years to put my finger on it.”

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