I remember, as a youngster, watching Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and in the scene where Death comes for dinner, one of the characters claims to love the music of Burt Bacharach - it's said, in much the same way that Neil from The Young Ones says that nobody listens to him, so he "might as well be a Leonard Cohen record".
In both cases - being young when I heard those one-liners, that was what turned me on to the music of Bacharach and Cohen.
In the 1980s it probably wasn't very cool to like Burt Bacharach's music - or Leonard Cohen's, obviously. But a decade on from those comedy observations, we're talking mid-90s, the music of Burt Bacharach had made a huge comeback. It was everywhere. And all the Britpop bands were talking about the influence and indie groups from all walks of life claimed an influence - and I have no reason to suggest that it was not sincere. (Cohen would get his revival another decade on from there.)
When I first heard Burt Bacharach's songs (realising that I had in fact heard so many of them via Aretha Franklin and The Carpenters and, in particular, Dionne Warwick without knowing on first listen that they were written by Bacharach) I was struck by these deceptively simple, gorgeous melodies. And how these little pop poems told stories (Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa), reflected the times (Don't Make Me Over), spoke of simple joy (Magic Moments) and heartbreak (Anyone Who Had a Heart).
The Burt Bacharach songs of the 1960s were very different from the "Woodstock era" songs that get trotted out for Vietnam movies and TV shows, for musical montages where hippie nostalgia needs to be evoked.
In the 1970s when disco and metal and punk were all about image and style (and lifestyle) as much as they were ever about the song, it's easy to see how the Bacharach compositions seemed lost. They were never about image and, as such, have largely been open to interpretation, viable to this day as worthwhile songs to continue covering.
I was always interested in the fact that people talk about Burt Bacharach but forget to mention Hal David, the lyricist - the writer of these great emotions. Sure, Burt married the words up beautifully, knowing the right way to create an arrangement, to blur some of the soppy idealism (What the World Needs Now Is Love) so as to create a gorgeous tune, a song.
But it takes two to tango, and when it takes two to write songs, as it did for Bacharach, Hal David was the one to assist in forming one of the world's great pop songwriting duos; it should be that both get equal praise. Bacharach - being a performer, an instrumentalist - has dined out on the revival, playing orchestral versions and being the subject of many tributes.
But he never wrote anything as wonderful as he did when paired with Hal David.
This weekend we lost Hal David - he was 91, he suffered a stroke. It's a great innings, 91, there's really no great sadness there in the sense that he lived a long life. And we still have his songs.
But in his passing we might reflect on the magic he offered the world. And maybe now we'll see some respect paid to David's phenomenal contribution to pop music.
My favourite Hal David/Burt Bacharach songs? Well it's hard to narrow it down - I've been collecting different versions of their hit songs for nearly 20 years now. I have the latest CD compilations and kitsch-covered LPs from op-shop bins. And the songs that David and Bacharach wrote for The Walker Brothers, Gene Pitney, Marty Robbins, Sandie Shaw, B.J. Thomas and Jackie DeShannon - to name just the immediate few that come to mind - also sent me off in the direction of those artists' catalogues. I can trace a love of Scott Walker's music back to hearing The Walker Brothers' version of Make It Easy on Yourself. At least a world away from Tilt - but that one song is what binds, that connected me to an artist I have carried on listening to, discovering so many wonderful things.
The same is true with Aretha Franklin - from my first Bacharach/David compilation a lifetime of collecting/listening was created.
With some of the other artists it was fleeting - one album (B.J. Thomas) but with others there was a respect found and interest paid that might not have been the case otherwise (Gene Pitney); it's about hearing the right song at the right time.
Hal David wrote so many of the right songs at the right time. For the right times. They live on now that he is gone. They have been living on since the late 1950s.
David and Bacharach first paired up to create The Story of My Life for Marty Robbins. That was in 1957. Later that year they had their first big hit - Magic Moments for Perry Como.
In the 1960s they turned into the hit-writing machine that created a career for Dionne Warwick - so many incredible/enduring songs...
David and Bacharach bickered and broke up. Burt wrote some hits with his then-wife Carole Bayer Sager and David continued to write, at least occasionally. One of his biggest successes, post-Bacharach, was To All the Girls I've Loved Before, teaming with Albert Hammond to create what would go on to be an enormous hit for Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.
But I think about the great songs from Bacharach and David together. And I think about them equally in terms of the magic/dynamic - they needed each other to create these gems. Bacharach's wonderful ear and touch is to be celebrated, absolutely, but he never made a song anywhere near as good with his other collaborators. It all seemed so effortless between him and David, even with the (physical) fighting and power-struggle.
My favourite songs by Hal David and Burt Bacharach - to name just a few - are Walk On By, The Look of Love, Anyone Who Had a Heart, Make It Easy on Yourself, The Windows of the World, (They Long to Be) Close to You, Magic Moments, A House Is Not a Home, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me and I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself.
But if I had to pick just one - then it's This Guy's in Love With You.
I've just always loved that song. It has a lot of personal memories and meanings.
So R.I.P. Hal David. And here's to all the great work by David and Bacharach. (Here's a tribute from The New York Times.)
Were you/are you a fan of the work Hal David did with Burt Bacharach? Do you have favourite songs from this great songwriting partnership? And do you agree that it seems unfair to focus on Burt Bacharach when assessing the phenomenal run of hits this duo had? Surely Hal David was a crucial part of the partnership.
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