Entertainment & Arts

The songwriting genius of Hal David

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Media captionSome of Hal David's best loved songs

US lyricist Hal David, who has died at the age of 91, will be remembered for writing dozens of hits with Burt Bacharach.

Among their songs are I Say A Little Prayer, recorded by Aretha Franklin; I'll Never Fall In Love Again, sung by Dionne Warwick; I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself by Dusty Springfield, and Alfie by Cilla Black.

Magic Moments was the first big hit for the pair. Recorded by Perry Como in 1957, it became a million-selling hit for the star the following year, spending eight weeks at number one in the UK singles chart.

Como was just one of a string of singers who benefited from David's masterful lyricism.

The song, which had the chorus "Magic moments, when two hearts are caring; Magic moments, memories we've been sharing", was also recorded by singer Ronnie Hilton the following year.

Its appeal continued through the 1980s, when it was chosen as the music to advertise Quality Street sweets, through the 1990s when British pop group Erasure cut a version and in 2004 when it featured in the hit movie Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

'Emotional impact'

In 1962, when David and Bacharach began writing for a young singer named Dionne Warwick, it was a perfect collaboration.

Together the trio created a succession of three dozen or so popular songs for her, including Walk On By, and Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Another, I Say a Little Prayer, was the most successful of the singles, reaching number four on the US Billboard 100 chart in December 1967.

It had further chart success when Aretha Franklin's version of reached number four in the UK singles chart in 1968 - her biggest UK hit at that point.

Referring to the "business" of songwriting on his website, David said he strove for "believability, simplicity and emotional impact" in his lyrics.

"Above all, I try to create an emotion to which others can respond," he said.

"Unless I can create an emotion to which I can respond, I throw the lyric away. Although I cannot know how others will react, I assume that if it moves me it may do the same for them. Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am wrong."

'Poles apart'

David looked for originality and his simple, heartfelt lyrics matched Bacharach's quirky melodies.

But he disagreed with the suggestion that he and Bacharach had a particular style of music.

"If we do, it is never consciously contrived, he said.

"Certainly What the World Needs Now Is Love and What's New, Pussycat? are as far apart as the North Pole and the South Pole. The same thing can be said of Alfie and Wives and Lovers. They are poles apart."

New York-based David would fly to Los Angeles and he and Bacharach spent weeks coming up with new songs but it was also known for the duo to collaborate over the telephone.

The pair may have been less hip than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but their songs of love and heartbreak became memorable and enduring and many continue to resonate in today's pop culture.

Cementing their place in music history, David and Burt Bacharach were awarded Gershwin Prize for popular song by the US Library of Congress in 2011, the first time a songwriting team has been given the honour.

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