President Barack Obama honored SHOF Chairman Emeritus Hal David and Burt Bacharach on Wednesday night as “two kings of songwriting,” presenting them the nation’s highest prize for popular music at the White House.
The songwriting duo received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a tribute concert in the East Room, featuring Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett and others. Wonder sang their tunes, “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “Alfie.”
More than 55 years after their first songs hit the airwaves,” Obama said, “these guys have still got it. Above all, they stayed true to themselves, and with an unmistakable authenticity, they captured the emotions of our daily lives — the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.”
The Library of Congress, which houses the world’s largest collection of sheet music and some of the earliest sound recordings, awards its Gershwin Prize as a lifetime achievement award to honor the legacy of the songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin. Bacharach and David truly reflected the Gershwins as a combination of composer and lyricist and have produced one of the world’s “most recognizable and richest multigenerational playlists,” said Librarian of Congress James Billington.
“This is music that has filtered through and survived not only their lifetimes, but people will go on discovering their tunes that aren’t as recognizable,” Billington said.
Past recipients of the Gershwin Prize have included Wonder, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. This is the first time it has gone to a songwriting duo.
Many lyrics and tunes from David and Bacharach are timeless, from “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “I Say A Little Prayer” to “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” They produced dozens of top 10 hits that continue to resonate in pop culture. Their music was recorded by legendary singers including The Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and their longtime partner Dionne Warwick, and their music is still being recorded by such artists as Alicia Keys and John Legend.
The private concert will be broadcast at 9pm EST, May 21st on PBS for the series “In Performance at the White House.”