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Monday, September 3, 2012

Hal David, Songwriting Partner with Burt Bacharach, 1921-2012: An Appreciation

Posted By on Mon, Sep 3, 2012 at 6:38 AM

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Songwriter Hal David passed away this weekend at the age of 91 from complications resulting from a stroke he suffered four days earlier. Best known for his collaboration with composer Burt Bacharach, David penned hits for Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and countless other crooners and pop singers in the 1960s and 1970s; those same songs passed into the realm of the Pop Standard almost upon release and have been covered countless times since.

The collected songs of Bacharach and David told tales that could be sweet and treacly - raindrops that fall on your head, birds that long to be close to you - but the pair's best, most enduring songs struck a chord of romantic hopefulness and personal perseverance that turned Brill Building songwriting from a work-a-day profession into high art.

Due to his novel orchestrations and other-worldly ear for harmony and melody, Bacharach became a byword for classy, complex pop songs; David, always less flashy and less eager for fame, was never as celebrated as his partner for his contributions. Search for "Hal David" on Amazon and you'll find one CD and one DVD in honor of the Bacharach and David songbook; Burt Bacharach has no fewer than 10 such collections under just his name, though most are stuffed with gems from the Bacharach/David era.

The truth is that, even if Burt Bacharach's music was a kind of three-minute pop symphony, it was the words of Hal David that broke your heart or helped to heal it. Few true musical partnerships have been as storied as theirs.

Below are five Bacharach/David exemplars -- songs that show the depth of their partnership and true synergy of two master craftsmen. You could easily pick five, or 25, more.

"Walk on By," Dionne Warwick (1964)

Heartbreak never sounded so real on the radio as when Dionne sang "Walk on By," those staccato guitar strokes slashing like razors. Even the swooping strings and forlorn trumpet spurts don't cover up the pain. Almost 60 years after its release, the song remains a marvel and the summit of the partnership of Bacharach, David and Warwick.

"Made in Paris," Trini Lopez (1966)

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