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Hal David dies at 91

Oscar and Grammy winning songwriter wrote dozens of classic songs with partner Burt Bacharach

Hal David, who along with partner Burt Bacharach penned dozens of timeless songs for movies, television and a variety of recording artists in the 1960s and beyond, has died. He was 91.

David died of complications from a stroke Saturday morning in Los Angeles, according to Jim Steinblatt, spokesman for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. David was a former president of ASCAP.

Bacharach and David wrote many top 40 hits including “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” ”Close to You” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

“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,” ASCAP’s current president, songwriter Paul Williams, said in a statement. “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.”

Many lyrics and tunes from Bacharach and David continue to resonate in pop culture, including “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “I Say A Little Prayer” to “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Their music was recorded by singers including the Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and their longtime partner Dionne Warwick.

In May, Bacharach and David received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a White House tribute concert attended by President Barack Obama.

Bacharach, 83, thanked Obama, saying the award for his life’s work topped even the Oscars and Grammys he won for individual projects. David could not attend because he was recovering from a stroke. His wife, Eunice David, accepted on his behalf.

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 and Bacharach met when both worked in the Brill Building, New York’s legendary Tin Pan Alley song factory where writers cranked out songs and attempted to sell them to music publishers. They scored their first big hit with “Magic Moments,” a million-selling record for Perry Como.

In 1962 they began writing for Warwick, whose versatile voice conveyed the emotion of David’s lyrics and easily handled the changing patterns of Bacharach’s melodies. Together the trio created a succession of popular songs including “Don’t Make Me Over,” ”Walk on By,” ”I Say a Little Prayer.” ”Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” ”Trains and Boats and Planes,” ”Anyone Who Has a Heart,” ”You’ll Never Get to Heaven” and “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

Bacharach and David also wrote hit songs for numerous other singers: “This Guy’s in Love With You” (trumpeter Herb Alpert in his vocal debut), “Make It Easy on Yourself” (Jerry Butler), “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (Jackie DeShannon) and “Wishin’ and Hopin'” (Dusty Springfield). They also turned out title songs for the movies “What’s New, Pussycat” (Tom Jones), “Wives and Lovers” (Jack Jones) and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (Gene Pitney).

In a 1999 interview, David explained his success as a lyricist this way: “Try and tell 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.”

The writer, who lived in New York, often flew to Los Angeles, where he and Bacharach would hole up for a few weeks of intense songwriting. Sometimes they conferred by long-distance telephone; “I Say a Little Prayer” was written that way.

The hit-making team broke up after the 1973 musical remake of “Lost Horizon.” They had devoted two years to the movie, only to see it scorned by critics and audiences alike. Bacharach became so depressed he sequestered himself in his vacation home and refused to work.

Bacharach and David sued each other, and Warwick sued them both. The cases were settled out of court in 1979, and the three went their separate ways. They reconciled in 1992 for Warwick’s recording of “Sunny Weather Lover.”

David, meanwhile, went on to collaborate successfully with several other composers: John Barry for the title song of the James Bond film “Moonraker”; Albert Hammond with “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” on which Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson dueted; and Henry Mancini with “The Greatest Gift” in “The Return of the Pink Panther.”

Born in New York City, David had attended public schools before studying journalism at NYU. He served in the Army during WWII, mostly as a member of an entertainment unit in the South Pacific.

After the war, he wrote lyrics for several composers until that fateful Brill Building meeting with Bacharach.

David served as president of American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers from 1980-86.

He married Anne Rauchman in 1947 and the couple had two sons.

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