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Sun September 2, 2012
Remembering Award-Winning Lyricist Hal David
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Hal David, the man who crafted the lyrics to such hits as "Walk on By" and "What the World Needs Now," died yesterday. He was 91. He died of complications of a stroke. NPR's Allison Keyes has this remembrance.
ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: David's songs thread through the soundtrack of the nation in a way that makes you tilt your head and smile.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT")
TOM JONES: (Singing) What's new Pussycat, whoa...
KEYES: David and composer Burt Bacharach collaborated on songs ranging from "What's New Pussycat" to this Oscar-winning ditty from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD0022)
B.J. THOMAS: (Singing) Raindrops keep falling on my head, but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red...
KEYES: And then there was that whole songbook of hits, thanks to their collaboration with a singer named Dionne Warwick, which began in the 1960s.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN")
DIONNE WARWICK: (Singing) What do you get when you kiss a guy? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia...
KEYES: In a 2010 interview, David and Bacharach appeared on NPR's Fresh Air. David says he started writing the lyrics to the song while Bacharach was in the hospital.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)
HAL DAVID: The famous line - what do you get when you kiss a girl, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do she'll never phone you - I don't recall thinking that Burt was in the hospital and had pneumonia, but obviously there was some subconscious thing about it, because that's what I wrote.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KEYES: The two met in 1957 when they both worked in New York City's Brill Building, kind of a song factory where writers crafted songs, then tried to sell them to music publishers. Hal David's first million seller was Sarah Vaughan's "Broken Hearted Melody" in 1959.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BROKEN HEARTED MELODY")
SARAH VAUGHAN: (Singing) Broken hearted melody...
KEYES: Hal David was born May 25, 1921 in New York City. And through all of the music and all of the movies, TV shows and plays, he told NPR he most enjoyed the 1968 musical he did with Bacharach, "Promises Promises."
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)
DAVID: It was important to me, and it was the most fun time I had on any project.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROMISES PROMISES")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Chuck) (Singing) Oh, promises, promises, this is where those promises, promises end...
KEYES: Hal David once said that as a lyricist he tried to tell a narrative with his songs and each one should be like a little film. This past May, David and Bacharach received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and during a tribute concert at the White House, Stevie Wonder performed David's favorite song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALFIE")
STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment that we live?
KEYES: David's wife, Eunice, told the Associated Press that even at the end Hal David always had a song in his head. Allison Keyes, NPR News.
WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.