the Big Apple who attended NYU and worked as a reporter for the New York Post before pursuing a
career as a songwriter. In
1943, he joined ASCAP and went on to collaborate with Arthur Altman, Burt
Bacharach, John Barry, Sherman Edwards, Redd
Evans, Henry Mancini, Lee Pockriss, and Don
Rodney. Bandleaders for whom he
wrote included Sammy Kaye and Guy Lombardo. The latter turned “The Four
Winds and the Seven Seas” into Hal’s first hit.
Hal met Burt
in 1957 at the Brill Building, where they both worked. They were teamed up by Eddie Wolpin, whose instincts were spot-on. Before the end of the year, the first
Bacharach-David composition was on the chart. Marty Robbins took “The Story
of My Life” to the top of the country chart and #15 on the pop
chart. It was quickly followed
up by Perry Como’s recording of “Magic Moments”, which
cracked the top thirty. Jane
Morgan reached #39 “With Open Arms”.
recordings featuring Hal’s words from this time period include
“And This is Mine” by Connie Stevens, “Broken-Hearted
Melody” by Sarah Vaughan, and “Johnny Get Angry” by Joannie Sommers. “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty
Valance” by Gene Pitney shot to #4 in May 1962. “I Just Don’t Know What
to Do with Myself” was originally recorded by Tommy Hunt and reached
a modest #119. “Forgive
Me (For Giving You Such a Bad Time” by Babs
Tino fared a little better, at #117. Gene Pitney got the songwriting duo
back in the top five with “Only Love Can Break a Heart”.
enjoyed variegated levels of success in 1963: “Anonymous Phone Call”
by Bobby Vee remained anonymous at #110, whereas
“Blue on Blue” by Bobby Vee blew to
#3. In between, you had Gene
Pitney charting at #17 and #21 with “Twenty Four Hours from
Tulsa” and “True Love Never Runs Smooth”, respectively. Jack Jones staked out the #14 spot
with “Wives and Lovers”, while Lou Johnson’s “Reach
out for Me” only reached #74.
Richard Chamberlain, of all people, was the first to record
“(They Long to Be) Close to You”, and it was a B side, no
would provide Burt and Hal with more consistent results beginning in
January 1964, when “Anyone Who Had a Heart” peaked at #8,
giving the songstress her first taste of the top ten. Cilla
Black’s version fared even better, topping the charts in the
and Hopin’” returned the songwriting
team to the top ten, thanks to Dusty Springfield’s sprightly
recording of it. Her rendition
of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” also
reached the charts in Great Britain.
Dionne hit #20 and #34 stateside with “Reach out for Me”
and “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (if You Break My Heart)”,
Always Something There to Remind Me” was first recorded by Lou
Johnson and reached a modest #49.
Sandi Shaw’s version only managed #51 in the States but topped
the charts in the U.K.
“Message to Martha” endured a couple of name changes: The original (again by Johnson) was
entitled “Kentucky Bluebird” and alighted at #104. Jerry Butler’s rendition was
titled “Message to Martha” and later Dionne would record it as
“Message to Michael”, although Hal loathed the
success followed as “Trains and Boats and Planes” by Billy J.
Kramer and the Dakotas reached both sides of the pond, travelling to #12 in
the U.K. and #47 in the States.
In addition, Burt and Hal had been tapped to write the music for the
Peter O’Toole-Peter Sellers comedy, What’s New, Pussycat?. The frisky title tune became a #3
hit for Tom Jones. Dionne
announced herself at #45 with “Here I Am”. Manfred Mann did not do as well with
“My Little Red Book”, which sputtered to #124. Love remade the song into a #52 hit,
although Burt and Hal didn’t like their rendition.
continued to chart with “Are You There (with Another Girl)” and
“Looking with My Eyes”, with the former reaching #64 and the
latter rallying to the top forty.
She returned to the top ten with the aforementioned “Message
to Michael”. Its
follow-up, “Another Night”, only managed #49.
The year of
1966 was dotted with major and minor hits: The title track from Alfie was
recorded by Cilla Black and Cher; Cilla’s version cracked the top ten in the U.K.
and Cher’s reached #32 in the States. Jackie DeShannon
hit #83 with “Come and Get Me” and #108 with “Windows and
Doors”. Tom Jones hit #74
with “Promise Her Anything” and Trini
Lopez loped to #113 with “Made in Paris”. The James Bond spoof Casino Royale spawned a couple of
hits: Herb Alpert & The
Tijuana Brass reached the top thirty with the title track and Dusty
Springfield did the same with “The Look of Love”.
returned Burt and Hal to the top five with her version of “I Say a
Little Prayer”. She
proved to be a double-threat when “Do You Know the Way to San
Jose” found its way to #10 and the B side, “Let Me Be
Lonely”, also charted.
Burt’s and Hal’s first #1 record came from an unlikely
source when Herb Alpert topped the charts with “This Guy’s in
Love with You”. Aretha
Franklin returned “I Say a Little Prayer” to the top ten in
August 1967. The same month
found Dionne charting with both sides of another 45: Her rendition of
“(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” went to
#65 and its A side, “Who is Gonna Love Me”, went into the top forty.
Burt and Hal
took their act to Broadway in 1968 with Promises,
Promises, and it was a huge smash, running from the end of 1968 to the
beginning of 1972. The
soundtrack won a Grammy Award and Dionne scored a top-twenty hit with the
title tune. Another title
track, “The April Fools” enjoyed a brief foray into the top
forty. Isaac Hayes and Engelbert Humperdinck had
similar success with “Walk on By” and “I’m a Better
Burt and Hal
were an unlikely choice to score the Paul Newman-Robert Redford western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Nevertheless, the centerpiece of the
film’s score, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, became
a #1 hit for B.J. Thomas and won an Oscar for Best Song. The 1960s ended, fittingly, with
Dionne in the top ten with her rendition of “I’ll Never Fall in
Love Again”, from Promises,
opened the 1970s by hitting the top thirty with his rendition of
“(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me)”. B.J. Thomas did the same with
“Everybody’s out of Town”. Dionne barely missed the top thirty
with “Let Me Go to Him”.
It was The
Carpenters who returned the songwriting tandem to the top of the charts
with their version of “(They Long to Be) Close to You”. The song was intended for Herb
Alpert, but he passed it to the brother-sister duo, as they had just inked
a deal with Herb’s A&M label. Hal wasn’t nuts about the song
but it stayed atop the charts for about a month. It would be Burt’s and
Hal’s biggest hit of 1970, although The Fifth Dimension nearly
repeated its success with “One Less Bell to Answer” but were
shut out by George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”.
continued to keep the charts occupied by Bacharach-David efforts: Her remake of “Make it Easy on
Yourself” made it to #37; “Paper Mache” stuck at #43;
and, “The Green Grass Starts to Grow” took root at #43. To cap the year off, Johnny Mathis
released a Burt tribute album simply titled Johnny Mathis Sings the Music of Bacharach & Kaempfert.
In 1971, Burt
and Hal found it increasingly difficult to hit the top fifty, let alone the
top forty. Their biggest hit of
the year was Dionne’s recording of “Who Gets the Guy”, which
got as high at #57. B.J. Thomas
took “Long Ago Tomorrow” all the way to #61. Isaac Hayes’ remake of
“The Look of Love” barely got a look at the top eighty. In 1972, Hal was enshrined in The
Songwriters Hall of Fame.
beckoned again and Burt and Hal were hired to score the ill-fated musical
version of Lost Horizon. The project was, by all accounts, a
disaster. In spite of this, two
songs survived to make their mark on Billboard: The title track went to #63 and The
Fifth Dimension enjoyed a top-forty hit with “Living Together,
and Hal were growing apart, however.
The dismal failure of Lost
Horizon somehow led to the three of them sitting in court together,
instead. Dionne sued Burt and
Hal. Hal sued Burt. Burt sued Hal. It was a bitter and nasty divorce
and the three went their separate ways.
Hal went on to
pen “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”, which became a
huge hit for Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson. On the strength of this and his impressive
back catalogue, he was enshrined in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
in 1984. In November of the
same year, Andre DeShield’s
Haarlem Nocturne enjoyed a brief run on
Broadway, with lyrics by Hal.
and Hal reunited in 1993, with Burt and Hal writing “Sunny Weather
Lover” for Dionne’s CD, Friends
Can Be Lovers. Burt and Hal
also penned “You’ve Got it All Wrong” for the revival of Promises, Promises, on The Great
received every accolade one can in songwriting circles, from honorary
degrees to board chairmanships to an Ivor Novello Award, becoming the first non-British citizen
to win the prize. His lyrics
have been immortalized in Bartlett’s
Famous Quotations, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the songbook, What the World Needs Now and Other Love
and Hal’s songs have even been adapted for a ballet entitled Love Songs, a production mounted by
the Joffrey Ballet that includes “Make it
Easy on Yourself” and “(There’s) Always Something There
to Remind Me”.
In September 2012,
when he was 91, he passed away after having suffered a stroke.
Dusty Springfield recordings
and Hopin’ (Burt Bacharach/Hal David)