In any word association test the words "easy listening" could be followed by the words "Bacharach and David". That would be understandable but it would also be to sell these two song writers short.
Together, they wrote at least 700 songs that encompassed everything from songs for at least two Classic Westerns ("The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head") to the jaunty "Magic Moments" (their first big hit in 1958 and recorded by Perry Como) to the haunting, plaintive Alfie.
Bacharach's melodies were original, fresh and wonderful but it was surely David's sometimes witty, sometimes plaintive but always elegant lyrics that put the proverbial "icing on the cake" Lennon and Mc Cartney were cool, Dylan was social conscience in song but, when you really think of it, it was Hal David who voiced, for the rest of us, the joys and sorrows of 20th century relationships. He did so with consummate skill and his unique brand of urbane American style that travels so well.
He was, as a lyricist, every bit the equal of Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and for that matter - Noel Coward. Is there any better depiction, in popular song, of the misery of rejection than "Walk On By" ? Part of us would like to express those sentiments if we found ourselves in that situation but pride or a lack of eloquence prohibits us. Hal David puts it all succinctly into words though, so we don't feel isolated or foolish for feeling our hurt.
David looked on song writing very much as a business but it might be more appropriate to say that he was a craftsman whose tools just happened to be words. Lyricists, like their poet cousins, know the value of economy and precision and the need to fashion a line of a song skilfully enough for it to carry the weight of a world of meaning. David was easily up to the mark.
There are many good lyricists in the world but not many Hal Davids. He managed that great feat of saying profound things in a simple, though never facile, and heartfelt way.
Hal David's lyrics helped prove Noel Coward's remark about the potency of cheap music - except for the fact that there was nothing cheap about them.
My modest effort: The Balloon Man In Edinburgh is available as an ebook from Amazon. See link below.
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