Lyricist extraordinaire Hal David passed away last week at age 91, leaving behind a legacy of timeless, honest, clever, and memorable lyrics that are woven into our lives.
But I always felt he wrote those songs especially for me.
As lyricist partner of composer Burt Bacharach, Mr. David penned the words to contemporary classics such as “Walk on By,” “What the World Need Now (Is Love Sweet Love), and “This Guy’s In Love With You,” to name only a few…only a few out of hundreds and hundreds! What an astounding collection of work.
Back in the day, I remember crying and singing “One Less Bell To Answer” along with the radio in my old Chevy after my high school boyfriend Bill broke my heart in 1970. And then there’s my all-time favorite Bacharach-David heartbreak song, Who Is Gonna Love Me? It’s still my go-to recording whenever I’m feeling exceptionally mournful about a failed romance.
In addition to the popular hits, there were also the gems that David and Bacharach created for film, with Best Song Oscar-nominees like “What’s New Pussycat?” for the 1965 film of the same name, and “The Look of Love” for CASINO ROYALE. And, who doesn’t know Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID?
But my all-time favorite is another Bacharach-David Oscar nominee, “Alfie,” which was written for the 1966 classic film starring Michael Caine.
To be sure, it is totally illogical and weird that a movie song named “Alfie” would endure for so long. David chose a line from the ALFIE script, “What’s it all about?” to lead the narrative, and the rest is music history.
After its tender, sweet beginning, the melody and lyrics turn frustrated: “I know there’s something much more/Something even non-believers can believe in.”
And then it gets downright hostile: “Until you find the love you missed….you’re nothing, Alfie.”
Eek. That’s an indictment.
Hope springs eternal, as they say, and the concluding lyrics send Alfie off with a wish for better days ahead: “When you walk, let your heart lead the way. And you’ll find love any day….”
I can read music a bit, but unfortunately, I have never been diligent about practicing. The only song I can play reasonably well is “Alfie.” It gives me such great pleasure that my hands still can find those notes when I periodically feel compelled to open the well-worn sheet music.
The song was a huge hit recorded by Cilla Black and of course, the Bacharach-David muse, Dionne Warwick. Joss Stone got the honor of recording it for the 2004 remake. And I had forgotten that Cher ever sang it.
Thank you, Mr. David, from the deepest part of my heart for writing all of those wonderful words. You always knew exactly how I felt.