Sep 032012

Lyricist Hal David, best known for his songwriting partnership with Burt Bacharach, died of a stroke this past Saturday. He was 91 years old.

Bacharach was always the one who got the attention – debonair, handsome, jet-setter, married to Angie Dickinson, writer of melodic lines that were intricate yet hummable. But David was the one who provided the words that brought the melodies home. Without him, nobody could have asked Alfie what’s it all about, or asked a pussycat what’s new, or asked a Californian if they know the way to San Jose, or made any of those questions a part of our national fabric. David may never have been one to perform in an Austin Powers movie – it was rare enough that he performed on any stage – but he left an indelible mark on the industry, and it’s safe to ask how we could forget him when there is always something there to remind us of his accomplishments.

As we say a little prayer for Hal and his family, join us in celebrating his work with these five covers.

MP3: Fountains of Wayne – Trains and Boats and Planes (Burt Bacharach cover)
Bacharach himself was the first person to record “Trains and Boats and Planes”; hit versions followed for Billy J. Kramer and (of course) Dionne Warwick. Fountains of Wayne’s rings with respect; they’re not pining for Stacy’s mom here, choosing instead to handle the topic of love not lost but missing in a gentle, sensitive way.

MP3: Isaac Hayes – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (Jerry Orbach & Jill O’Hara cover)
Isaac Hayes had previously turned Bacharach/David’s “Walk On By” into a 12-minute epic, amping up both the pleasure and pain in equal amounts. On 1971′s Black Moses, he took on the hit song from the Broadway musical comedy “Promises, Promises,” giving it a scoop of hot buttered soul that made it uniquely his.

MP3: Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (B.J. Thomas cover)
The poignant yet uplifting hit from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid‘s soundtrack is given a sense of urgency in the Manic Street Preachers’ version, which first appeared on the benefit album HELP. All the songs on that album were recorded in one day and released the following week, which may account for the abandonment of the easygoing lope of the original.

MP3: k.d. lang – Johnny Get Angry (Joanie Summers cover)
Like Bacharach, David had other songwriting partners and other hits in his career. “Johnny Get Angry” was one of those non-Bacharach hits, written with Sherman Edwards and a 1962 smash for Joanie Summers. k.d. lang revived it in her early concerts, complete with dramatic reinterpretations and crumpling to the floor, regularly taking the song over the top where it couldn’t help belonging.

MP3: Fun Lovin’ Criminals – We Have All the Time in the World (Louis Armstrong cover)
David collaborated with John Barry to produce this, the love theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s become a wedding dance favorite for people who don’t associate it with the death of Mrs. James Bond. Fun Lovin’ Criminals put down their Scooby snacks long enough to record a cover that coasts on cool without relying on samples from Tarantino movies.

Learn more about Hal David at his official website.

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5 Responses to “In Memoriam: Hal David”

Comments (4) Pingbacks (1)
  1. boyhowdy says:

    What, no Aimee Mann doing “What The World Needs Now Is Love?” If you don’t have it, let me know.

    Seriously, Patrick – nice work, as always. Clearly, I’m going to have to be faster on the draw for future thematic posts on my own end, but the friendly competition yields such delicious fruit, I have no quarrel.

  2. Patrick Robbins says:

    BH, I don’t have it and the YouTube version I just played has lousy sound; if you’re offering, I’m accepting. And thanks for the compliments – I’ve been a long time fan of yours, going back to my own Western MA days, and a few kind words from you mean an awful lot. (For those who don’t know Boy Howdy’s work, look at the Blogroll in the right-hand column and click on “Cover Lay Down.”)

  3. boyhowdy says:

    To be fair, the song was compressed a bit oddly – I think she wanted it to sound like an old mono vinyl recording. But here it is, ripped direct from the great 2004 Starbucks/Hear Music Sweetheart Love Songs covers sampler that it originally appeared on: http://coverlaydown.com/tunes/whattheworld.mp3

  4. KJR says:

    Patrick;

    Thank you for this wonderful Memorium. Wonderful song choices. I had the honor of meeting Mr. David a few months ago. A real gentleman who had that magic touch with lyrics that you love to sing along with.

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