LOS ANGELES — Hal David, the stylish, heartfelt lyricist who teamed with Burt Bacharach on dozens of timeless songs for movies, television and a variety of recording artists in the 1960s and beyond, has died. He was 91.
David died of complications from a stroke Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his wife, Eunice David.
He had suffered a major stroke in March and was stricken again Tuesday, she said.
“Even at the end, Hal always had a song in his head," Eunice David said. “He was always writing notes, or asking me to take a note down, so he wouldn’t forget a lyric."
Bacharach and David were among the most successful teams in modern history, with top 40 hits including “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head," “Close to You" and “That’s What Friends Are For." Although most associated with Dionne Warwick, their music was recorded by many of the top acts of their time, from the Beatles and Barbra Streisand to Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin. They won an Oscar for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head" (from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid") and Grammys and Tonys for the songs from the hit Broadway musical “Promises, Promises."
David joined the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1974 and served as president 1980 to 1986. He was head of the Songwriters Hall of Fame from 2001 to 2011, and was Chairman Emeritus at his death.
“As a lyric writer, Hal was simple, concise and poetic — conveying volumes of meaning in the fewest possible words and always in service to the music," ASCAP’s current president, the songwriter Paul Williams, said in a statement. “It is no wonder that so many of his lyrics have become part of our everyday vocabulary and his songs ... the backdrop of our lives."
In May, Bacharach and David received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a White House tribute concert attended by President Barack Obama.
Bacharach, 83, thanked Obama, saying the award for his life’s work topped even the Oscars and Grammys he won for individual projects. David could not attend because he was recovering from a stroke. Eunice David accepted on his behalf.
“It was thrilling," she said. “Even though he wasn’t there, Hal said it was the highest honor he had ever received."
More than 55 years after their first songs hit the airwaves, Obama said “these guys have still got it." He noted their music is still being recorded by such artists as Alicia Keys and John Legend.
“Above all, they stayed true to themselves," Obama said. “And with an unmistakable authenticity, they captured the emotions of our daily lives — the good times, the bad times, and everything in between."
David and Bacharach met when both worked in the Brill Building, New York’s legendary Tin Pan Alley song factory where writers cranked out songs and attempted to sell them to music publishers. They scored their first big hit with “Magic Moments," a million-selling record for Perry Como.
In a 1999 interview, David explained his success as a lyricist this way: “Try and tell a narrative. The songs should be like a little film, told in three or four minutes. Try to say things as simply as possible, which is probably the most difficult thing to do."
The writer, who lived in New York, often flew to Los Angeles, where he and Bacharach would hole up for a few weeks of intense songwriting. Sometimes they conferred by long-distance telephone; “I Say a Little Prayer" was written that way.