Hal David First American to Receive Ivor Novello
legend HAL DAVID has just become the first non-Briton to be
honoured with a prestigious Ivor Novello Award by the British
Academy Of Composers And Songwriters for his string of landmark
hits with easy listening icon Burt Bacharach. TERRY STAUNTON said
a little prayer and went to meet one of the greatest backroom boys
in pop history.
HAL DAVID WAS RECENTLY asked to write out the lyrics to 'We Have All The
Time In The World', his 1969 James Bond theme, as a gift for a friend's
wedding. But before putting pen to paper, the 78-year-old songwriter had to
rush out and buy the sheet music - just to make sure he got it right.
He can be forgiven the odd lapse in memory, the occasional
forgotten couplet here and there, because the sheer volume of classic
popular songs that bear his name in brackets under the title is
breathtaking. In tandem with BURT
BACHARACH , the perennial figurehead of the easy listening set, David
has been responsible for some of the most enduring musical moments of the
century. 'Walk On By', 'Make It Easy On Yourself', 'I Say A Little
Prayer', 'This Guy's In Love With You'; arguably, there isn't a
record collection in the world that doesn't feature at least one Bacharach
& David opus.
Artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, the Pet Shop Boys,
Manic Street Preachers, Prince and Elvis Costello cite the pair as a major
influence, and songs like 'What The World Needs Now', 'The Look Of
Love' and 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' are all but anthems, unassailable
landmarks in the history of pop.
Yet lyricist David's contribution is often overlooked,
with Bacharach afforded the lion's share of attention, the user-friendly
face of the cocktails and turtlenecks crowd. The balance was redressed to a
degree in London today (May 27), with a special presentation to the
wordsmith at the annual Ivor Novello Awards, making him the first non-Briton
to be honoured in the awards' 44-year history. It was a rare foray into
the limelight for an unassuming man who seems to like it best in the
"Burt is better known than me for a number of reasons,"
he says. "Composers tend to be better known than lyricists, just look at
Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Bernie is a brilliant lyric writer, but Elton
is the showman. And like Elton, Burt is a performer, he's good out in the
open. That's never been my thing."
The Bacharach & David partnership held strong for
close to 20 years, the pair going their separate ways in the early '70s.
They've been working
together again lately, penning songs the forthcoming Bette Midler film, Isn't
She Great?, and for their original '60s muse, Dionne Warwick. David is
enthusiastic about the results, but is well aware the new songs have a lot
to live up to, considering the duo's formidable back catalogue
Does David have a personal favourite from the golden era?
"Without a doubt, it's 'Alfie'. I think that lyric
comes closest to expressing my own particular philosophy of love and how to
live your life. Every writer sets out to achieve something with their lyrics
but various things can conspire against you during the writing process to
make you lose sight of the initial emotional intent. But with Alfie, more
than any other song, it just fell into place beautifully.
"I also really like 'A House Is Not A Home',
especially the opening couplet, 'A chair is still a chair/Even when there's
no one sitting there'. I like the simplicity of it. Simplicity is often
the hardest thing to achieve."
You seem to have a talent for writing from a women's perspective.
"I've heard that said, but I think it has more to do
with people being familiar with women singing the songs. If you actually sit
down and listen, most of them could apply to either sex. A song like 'I
Say A Little Prayer' is specifically female, and a lot of other songs were
written with women in mind, especially when Burt and I were working with
Dionne. It's flattering that people think I can articulate female
emotions, but the majority could be sung by a girl or a guy."
You won an Oscar for 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head' from Butch
Cassidy, which features in one of the most classic scenes in cinema history.
"Yeah, that one stuck around. The film-makers just
showed us the scene, Paul Newman on a bicycle showing off in front of
Katharine Ross, and it was such a beautiful moment in the film that I didn't
want to write anything about outlaws or bankrobbers. It's a kinda
happy-go-lucky melody, but there is a darker side. Butch is this fun guy,
but everything he does gets screwed up along the way. I think the song hints
at that without forcing the point. Burt and I were well in sync for that
Is there a form of telepathy between you?
"Oh yeah, definitely, and I think it's still there
after all these years. There have been times in the past when I've heard
one of Burt's melodies and the words just fell out in a matter of seconds.
'Do You Know The Way To San Jose?' is a perfect example of that, I heard
the whole lyric in a flash, I just instinctively knew what Burt was looking
for. The ones that come out of the blue are usually the best ones."
Can you think of one song that you wish you had written?
"Oh, there are so many. Lots of Johnny Mercer things,
some Gershwins, but if I had to pick one it would be 'White Christmas',
it's the ultimate song of love and yearning. Irving Berlin was an absolute
genius, he could say the most wonderful, thoughtful and honest things in the
shortest number of lines. And that, I think, is the key to great
Towering Song Award
Linda Moran, President of the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame, announced that the Towering Song honored at this year's Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards
was "What The World Needs Now is Love", written by the legendary songwriting team of Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Dionne Warwick, the preeminent interpreter of the music of Bacharach & David, performed The Towering Song at the Awards dinner June 10, 2004.
The Towering Song Award is presented each year to the creators of an individual song that has influenced the culture in a unique way over many years. Previous Towering Songs have included
"Let me Call you Sweetheart", Yankee Doodle Dandy", and "Fly Me to the Moon". Commenting on the selection of "What the World Needs Now is Love", Linda Moran said: "This song swept the nation
when it was a hit for Jackie DeShannon almost 40 years ago. It remains a beautiful plea for peace and understanding that continues to resonate in a world torn by strife".
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW
Performed in over 224 film and TV shows, such as:
Late Show With David Letterman
Every year it is performed in over 40 countries around the
world, such as:
ASCAP estimates that "What The World Needs Now Is
Love" has been played on the radio more than two million times!