Sad To See You Leaving 2012: Hal David

by George_East on January 20, 2013

Hal David

This is a post by George East which was originally posted on 29 December 2012 but which was lost from the site during our recent difficulties.  It is not clear whether the post is complete and unfortunately all comments on the post and any graphics originally posted have been lost.

Before it became de rigueur for major recording artists to write their own material, much of the music world was reliant upon the great writing partnerships, writing perfect pop songs. These writers, the so called Brill Building Sound, after the building in New York where many of the music publishing companies were based wrote songs inspired by the tradition of the Great American Songbook writers of an earlier generation, such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Rodgers & Hart.

The Brill Building Sound is often credited with being the predominant sound between Elvis entering the Army and the emergence of the Beatles, but that would be unfair to it and its major writers. The reach of Phil Spector, Goffin & King, Leiber & Stoller and in particular Burt Bacharach and his lyric writing partner, Hal David was so much longer than the early 1960s.

Although the songs written by Bacharach and David included easy listening classics such as Do You Know The Way to San Jose?, There’s Always Something There To Remind Me and Anyone Who Had A Heart, other songs would become soul classics (Say A Little Prayer) or would form part of the soundtrack to the cool London-centered swinging Sixties (Alfie, What’s New Pussy Cat, The Look Of Love).

Perhaps the best example of all of the greatness of the writing of Bacharach and David and maybe their best song, Walk On By,  was originally recorded in a light soul version by Dionne Warwick in 1964, but would be funked up in 12 minutes of blaxsploitation genius by Isaac Hayes on his 1969 masterpiece, Hot Buttered Soul and would then be punked up by The Stranglers in 1978.  The song sounds fabulous in all three versions.  The mark of a great piece of writing.  Flexible, durable, brilliant.

Bacharach and David would also ride the late 1960s peace and love wave with the iconic Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, as Paul Newman cycled in the rain in the 1969 hippy western Butch Cassidy and The Sun Dance Kid.

It is trite to say that we will not see Hal David’s like again, but we really won’t.  The demand for quality song writing for other artists just does not exist now.  There is either the paint by numbers songs written for talentless talent show Cowell fodder, or artists write their own stuff. The world moved on.  And given the quality of writing by the likes of Bacharach and David, it is hard to say that it doing so was entirely positive.

RIP Hal David.

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