Celebrated Lyricist Hal David Asked “Who Teaches Birds How To Fly?”
By Jon Konjoyan
One of the greatest lyricists of 20th Century popular music died Sept. 1 at the age of 91. Hal David, together with composer Burt Bacharach, crafted 24 Top 10 hits including “Alfie,” “Make It Easy on Yourself,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “The Look of Love,” “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and “Close to You.”
David first hit the charts in 1949 with Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra’s “The Four Winds and the Seven Seas.” His most recent chart maker was 1983’s “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes. In between were smashes by Dionne Warwick (David referred to her as his and Bacharach’s “muse”), Jackie DeShannon, BJ Thomas, Dusty Springfield, Herb Alpert, Tom Jones, The 5th Dimension, Aretha Franklin, Sergio Mendes, Luther Vandross, and countless others.
In a forward to David’s book What the World Needs Now, Warwick described how the wordsmith connected with people. “Hal reaches people. That is his particular genius — taking real-life situations and working them into song in a simple and beautiful way.” Music historian Paul Grein agreed, telling the Los Angeles Times, “Hal’s lyrics were simple and direct and conversational; he would understate.”
Bacharach and David were awarded the Gershwin Prize in a White House ceremony earlier this year. James Billington of the Library of Congress called David “an American songwriting treasure.”
Hal David’s lyrics were often thought provoking such as “Who Teaches Birds How to Fly?” from “As Long as There’s an Apple Tree,” or socially conscious as in “The Windows of the World,” “Be Aware,” and “Paper Mache.” He was also a master of the love song with famous examples being “The Look of Love” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart.”
In lieu of flowers the family is asking that donations be made to the ASCAP Foundation, 1900 Broadway, Sixth Floor,New York,NY10023.