SHOF Mourns The Passing Of Chairman Emeritus Hal David

The Songwriters Hall of Fame lost a great friend, supporter and esteemed inductee today. 

“All of us associated with the Songwriters Hall of Fame mourn the passing of our Chairman Emeritus, Hal David,” commented SHOF Chairman Jimmy Webb. “Hal devoted more than a decade as Chairman and, under his leadership, our annual Induction and Awards Dinner became one of the must-attend events on the music industry calendar; it was also on his watch that the Hall entered the digital age with our ‘Virtual Museum.’ He was an extraordinary man and, as a lyricist, second to none. Hal was, of course, an inductee of SHOF, the recipient of our Johnny Mercer, Towering Song and Visionary Leadership Awards. He was also well aware that this organization is as much about the future of songwriting as its past. How fitting that our yearly Hal David Starlight Award pays tribute, in his name, to the creators of Pop Music’s future song standards. I am proud to have known him as a fellow songwriter and a friend.”

Hal David, who achieved world-wide recognition as the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning lyricist of numerous American song standards, died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on September 1, 2012 at the age of 91 of complications from a stroke.  David, a native of Brooklyn, New York, teamed with composer Burt Bacharach beginning in the late 1950s to create a legendary body of hit songs—that remains unequaled to this day—that were recorded by artists including Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, Jackie DeShannon, B.J. Thomas, Frank Sinatra, the Fifth Dimension, the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, and, most notably, Dionne Warwick.  In May of 2012, President Barack Obama presented the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to David and Bacharach at a White House musical tribute. In recent years, David led the Songwriters Hall of Fame as Chairman and CEO from 2001 to 2011, and was Chairman Emeritus at his death. David, a member of the ASCAP Board of Directors since 1974, served as President of ASCAP from 1980 to 1986. 

Hal David was born on May 25, 1921 to Gedalieh and Lina Goldberg David, an immigrant couple from Austria.  Hal’s older brother, Mack (1912—1991), preceded him as a songwriter, achieving success with such hits as “La Vie en Rose,” “Candy,” “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” and “Bibiddi-Bobbidi-Boo.” Hal studied journalism at New York University before joining the military during World War II.  He served in the Army Entertainment Section alongside future comedy star and film director Carl Reiner, under the command of Maurice Evans.

Following the War, Hal began working with songwriters he’d meet at the center of New York’s popular song industry, the Brill Building. David’s first major hit was a 1949 collaboration with composer Don Rodney, “The Four Winds and the Seven Seas,” recorded by Vic Damone.  Other early David hits written with composers other than Bacharach include: “The Bell Bottom Blues”(with Sherman Edwards for Teresa Brewer), “Broken Hearted Melody” (with Leon Carr for Sarah Vaughan), “Sea of Heartbreak” (with Paul Hampton for Don Gibson), “Johnny Get Angry” (with Sherman Edwards for Joanie Sommers) and“ My Heat’s an Open Book” (with Lee Pockriss for Carl Dobkins, Jr.).

The Bacharach and David collaboration yielded success with Marty Robbins’ recording of “The Story of My Life” in 1957.  The team continued to enjoy hits with Perry Como (“Magic Moments”), Bobby Vinton (“Blue on Blue”), Jack Jones (“Wives and Lovers”), and Gene Pitney (“Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “24 Hours from Tulsa,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”).   In 1962, the team began working as writers and producers with a young vocalist from New Jersey named Dionne Warwick.  “Don’t Make Me Over” was the first in a lengthy line of major hits that would also include “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By,” “Reach Out for Me,” “You’ll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Message to Michael,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” Alfie” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” among many others.  Other iconic Bacharach & David song hits include “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” recorded in 1965 by Jackie DeShannon, “This Guy’s in Love with You,” a #1 for Herb Alpert in 1968, and “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” a #1 hit for The Carpenters in 1970.

The Bacharach/David magic was also sought by British Invasion stars of the 1960s. Dusty Springfield achieved hits with “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “The Look of Love;” Sandie Shaw charted with “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me;” and Tom Jones reached the Top Ten with “What’s New Pussycat.”  Bacharach and David were also called upon to create motion picture song scores and themes in the 1960s – these included Alfie, What’s New Pussycat, Casino Royale, The April Fools and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Their #1 song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” written for Butch Cassidy and recorded by B.J. Thomas, was honored with the 1969 Academy Award for Best Song.  In addition, David and Bacharach were nominated for Best Song Oscars for “The Look of Love” from Casino Royale and the title songs from What’s New Pussycat and Alfie.

In musical theater, Bacharach and David created the score for Promises,Promises, which debuted on Broadway in 1968 and ran for 1281 performances. The score - featuring the hits, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “Promises, Promises” – was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Grammy Award for Cast Album of the Year.  Promises, Promises was successfully revived on Broadway in 2010.

David and Bacharach went separate ways in the early 1970s; David went on to collaborate with other composers, including Albert Hammond (with whom he wrote “99 Miles from L.A.” and the international smash, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”)” and John Barry (“Theme from Moonraker”).

David became increasingly involved as a music industry leader intent on protecting the copyrights of music creators, frequently bringing that message to members of Congress s President of ASCAP.  David’s philanthropic efforts have included work on behalf of the Los Angeles Music Center and serving on the board of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His honors include induction into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; receipt of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer and Visionary Leadership Awards; the Ivor Novello Award of the British Academy of Composers And Songwriters (the first American ever to receive this honor); and several honorary doctorates.

Hal David’s first wife, Anne, died in 1987.  He is survived by his wife, Eunice, of Los Angeles, and his sons, Jim David of Studio City, California and Craig David of Clyde, Texas and three grandchildren, Adam, Sarah and Jorden; and two stepsons, KC Forester and Donald Forester.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to The ASCAP Foundation, One Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023, 212-621-6219, or the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9911 West Pico Blvd., Suite 608, Los Angeles, CA 90035.

Update: please follow this link to Roger Friedman’s story regarding the special memorial for Hal David, held in Los Angeles on September 21st, and attended by many of Hal’s closest friends, artists and collaborators: