Follow by Email

What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Time Machine special- Hal Davis 1921-2012

In looking into how to do a tribute to a man of stature, you have to let what you find dictate the story you tell.

Hal David, right, with Burt Bacharach

And while some of you younger folks, or those not so involved in music, might say, "Okay, he was a song writer,"  Or "he was that guy that worked with Burt Bacharach."  But this is a man who left an over 700-song legacy, including some of the best, most lasting, songs of all time.  His lyrics, as I discovered as I went through the list of his material, form the very skeleton of the music soul that inhabits me.  Now, I don't profess to know the man, except through his music.  What I intend to do with this tribute is to show that perhaps never again will we find a talent of this scale, that has touched so many for so long (save only for his partner, the music-man of the combine).

In my attemts to find a bottom to his bottomless well to start from, I found an article on Billboard by Fred Bronson.  He had put together a list of Hal's biggest chart hits, ordered by peak and length of time, and "adjusted by certain periods" so that a gold record from 1956 isn't overwhelmed by a 2012 hit that got downloaded a billion times.  In looking his list over, I decided to do a little modifying of my own.

- Three songs on his list were included because they were hip-hop hits that "sampled" certain of Hal's songs.  These do not make the list, and consist of:
     Slow Jams, by Twista with Kanye West and Jamie Foxx.  This was a #1 in 2004 and sampled Luther Vandross' version of A House Is Not A Home; this was #6 on his chart.
     Warning, by the Notorious B.I.G. from 1995, which sampled Isaac Hayes' cover of Walk On By; this was #16 on his chart.
     Rain On Me by Ashanti from 2003; it sampled Isaac Hayes' take on The Look Of Love.

-In the same vein, I took out of the main count a medley of Hal's What The World Needs Now Is Love with Abraham, Martin, And John, spliced with clips from inspirational speeches from JFK, Bobby Kennedy,  and Martin Luther King.  This combo was put together by DJ Tom Clay, and hit #8 in 1971.  If you've never heard this, and are interested in the time period, it will take you back to a time when we had the potential to change the world into something so much better- before a "trio" of assholes thought that they needed to make a point nobody cared about with a bullet. (The quotes around trio mean that, while I am no conspiracy theorist, I find it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald could ties his shoes without help, let alone hit a moving target surrounded by secret service agents.)

-Also, I decided that multiple entries of the same song will be handled under the entry for the most popular version, though I will mention them.

- Finally, his list includes Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' Theme to the movie Casino Royale, which hit 27 in 1967.  But this song was an instrumental, and though Hal did have lyrics in other soundtrack tunes, as far as I can learn this was an instrumental.  Hard to write lyrics when the song don't have any. 

This leaves me with still a large group of hits, and this tribute will feature the top thirty.  This post is best enjoyed slowly.  Split your screen, pop up youtube, and play 'em as I count 'em down.  I'll warn you, though- if you are like me, grab your box of tissues, because there are a lot of throat catchers here.

Hal and Burt with their greatest beneficiary, Dionne Warwick.

30- Make It Easy On Yourself, The Walker Brothers, #16, 1965.  We've mentioned the Walker Brothers, who were neither Walkers nor brothers, in a somewhat recent six degrees.  They were known for their big hit The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore.  I didn't know this one by name, but as soon as I heard it, I remembered... and another tissue died.  Jerry Butler had done this first in 1962, and peaked at #20.

29- You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart), The Stylistics, #23, 1973.  My first reaction was, wow, this was Hal's?  The second was, for pete's sake, how did this chart so low?  Sometimes the old charts frustrate me SOOOOO bad...

28- True Love Never Runs Smooth, Gene Pitney, #21, 1963.  I did not know this one, but anything by Gene was great in my book.  You don't remember Gene Pitney? Go check him out, and come right back, because he's not done tonight.

27- Promises, Promises, Dionne Warwick, #19, 1968.  I found it ironic that she did a song by this name... but if I explained now, I'd be giving story away.  She'll be back a whopping 8 times.

26- 24 Hours From Tulsa, Gene Pitney, #17, 1963.  Once again, perplexed that this song didn't chart higher.  Probably not the most unbiased commentor in the world, though.

Gene Pitney
25- Sea Of Heartbreak, Don Gibson, #21, 1961.  Don was a Country-Western star who was best known for Oh, Lonsesome Me, which was a crossover #7 hit in 1956.  This one though- a surprisingly upbeat tune- was also a #2 on the country charts. Co-written not by Burt but by Paul Hampton, whose next greatest accomplishment was the theme to My Mother, The Car.

24- Don't Make Me Over, Dionne Warwick, #21, 1963.  This was Dionne's very first chart hit.  Sybil Lynch, who recorded under just her first name, did a hip-hoppy cover in 1989 that actually passed Dionne's version and peaked at #20.

23- Alfie, Dionne Warwick, #15, 1963.  The theme to a movie by Michael Caine, it was done both on the original movie and on the Jude Law 2004 remake by Cher.  I haven't listened to that version, but the Wiki article suggests her version got sunk because Sonny tried to channel Phil Spector in the production and found out he wasn't quite Phil Spector.

22- Wives And Lovers, Jack Jones, #14, 1964.  Another one I didn't know by name, but instantly once I played it.  He eschewed chart success for the big band sound.

Jack Jones on the cover of his Bread tribute lp.

21- Message To Michael, Dionne Warwick, #8, 1966.  One of my earliest memories- and one of 3 #8 hits for Dionne in the countdown, as you will soon see.

20- Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Dionne Warwick, #8, 1968.  See, that didn't take long!  One of two songs where the singer said that it was a "stupid" song, but it didn't stop them from raking in the rewards.  "L.A. is a great big freeway/put a hundred down and buy a car..."  Oh, for the good old days...

19- Johnny Get Angry, Joanie Sommers, #7, 1962.  The most surprising song for me.  Another non-Burt song; it was composed with Sherman Edwards, who'll be back a little later.

18- Anyone Who Had A Heart, Dionne Warwick, #8, 1963.  Done in one take, at the same session that spawned Walk On By.  Beatles major-domo George Martin thought it would make a good tune for Shirley Bassey, but gave it instead to Cilla Black, and up-and-coming Liverpudlian who was friends with John Lennon, and she took it to #1 in the UK.

17- Always Something There To Remind Me, Naked Eyes, #8, 1982.  Remember the irony thing back at #27?  I was going to say that it's funny that Dionne would record a song named Promises, Promises, because after Naked Eyes had their biggest hit with a song she did first (#65 in 1968, as the b-side of her hit Who Is Going To Love Me Now-which hit #33), they had their second biggest hit with a song with the title of- Promises, Promises.  Not the same tune, though.  R.B. Greaves also did a version which hit #27 in 1970.

Hal with his Hollywood star.
16- I'll Never Fall In Love Again, Dionne Warwick, #6, 1969.  Dionne was nominated for Grammys six times with Hal/Burt songs.  This one won her a best contemporary vocal performance at the 1971  awards. And, though our boy at Billboard missed it in his countdown, Tom Jones did a version that peaked at 49, dropped out, came back a few months later and peaked at #6.

15- What The World Needs Now Is Love, Jackie DeShannon, #7, 1965.  The only song from the dynamic duo that Dionne ever rejected.  Burt said, "She might have thought it was too preachy and I thought Dionne was probably right", so they gave it to Jackie, who nailed it.  Another interesting story from Wiki:

In June 1968, following the shooting of Robert Kennedy but before he died (approximately 26 hours), the Jackie DeShannon version was played over and over on Los Angeles radio stations as an audio vigil. This also continued for a few days following his death.  Too bad nobody ever expressed that thought to Sirhan Sirhan.

14- Broken Hearted Melody, Sarah Vaughn, #7, 1959.  The jazz star is our other contestant who hit big with a song she considered "corny".  Also, our other song co-written by Sherman Edwards,  who is best known as the music man for the Happenings' #3 hit See You In September, with Sid Wayne supplying the lyrics.

13- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Gene Pitney, #4, 1962.  It was written for the movie with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, but a dispute between the record company and the studio kept it off the soundtrack.  Apparently director John Ford didn't like it. 

Run that by me again, pilgrim- you don't LIKE that song...?
12- Walk On By, Dionne Warwick, #6, 1964.  The one song on the list that stops my breath at note #1.  By far the most powerful on the list.  Isaac Hayes' cover of this (mentioned in the "sampling section") hit #30 in 1969.

11- Wishin' And Hopin', Dusty Springfield, #6, 1964.  She also scored with a cover of The Look Of Love, which hit #22 in 1967.

10- Only Love Can Break A Heart, Gene Pitney, #2, 1962.  Gene Pitney was a great songwriter on his own as well.  His comp He's A Rebel by the Crystals is what kept this one from hitting #1.

9- What's New Pussycat, Tom Jones, #3, 1965.  The second biggest surprise on the list for me.  Just like Pitney, it's tough to beat Tom Jones.

8- The Look Of Love, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66, #4, 1968.  Everybody and their mother has recorded this song, including Dusty Springfield, whom I mentioned earlier, and Claudine Longet.  Dusty's version was from the Casino Royale soundtrack.

Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.

7- Blue On Blue, Bobby Vinton, #3, 1963.  Anyone who followed the sixties countdown knows how big a song this is for me.  My third big surprise on the list.

6- I Say A Little Prayer, Dionne Warwick, #4, 1967.  Believe it or not, we've finally run out of feature songs by Dionne.  Aretha Franklin hit #10 with this in 1968, and Diana King did it on the soundtrack of My Best Friend's Wedding in 1997, and the single made it to #38.

5- To All The Girls I Loved Before, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, #5, 1984.  Surprise #4 was co-written this time by Albert Hammond of It Never Rains In Southern California fame.

4- One Less Bell To Answer, the Fifth Dimension, #2, 1970.  Another breath stopper for me.

3- This Guy's In Love With You, Herb Alpert, #1, 1968.  And another.  The first song I (wanted to) play for Laurie.  Dionne also hit the top ten with this, reaching #7 in 1969.

2- (They Long To Be) Close To You, The Carpenters, #1, 1970.  Have you noticed that seven of the countdown- and five of the also-mentioned- are from 1968-70?  In fact, from the week I entered kindergarten to the week I graduated second grade, just counting the songs I memorized in doing this post, there was a Hal David song on the hot 100 102 out of 144 weeks- 70.8 % of the time.  Another current member of the Time Machine posts.

And, the #1 Hal David song...
... The very first #1 of the seventies, from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...
1- Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, BJ Thomas, #1, 1970.  His follow up, Everybody's Out Of Town, missed the count by two spots, peaking earlier this year (Time Machine time, AKA 1970) at 26.
Wow.  Maybe only the Beatles can claim such a huge, influential songbook as Hal and Burt put together.  But the Beatles would be hard pressed to match the spread of years, the number of artists involved in the Bacharach/David songbook.  God rest you, Hal.  There'll never be another.


  1. I knew he had a huge song list, but I had no idea he wrote some of the songs you listed. What a resume. That'll be hard for anyone to top, especially with our generation of canned music. RIP.

    1. I know, right? I was hoping everyone would get the shock of his sheer scope like I did.

  2. CWM:
    ...WOW. I knew that Hal David was prolific as a songwriter, but SEVEN HUNDRED???

    And it's funny, but I remember those Gene Pitney songs too, as well as the BIG hits.
    ANd that's the sad part of a passing like tis...where is anyone that has the staying power of those decades, and the ability to produce SO many GOOD songs these days?

    Once again...
    "You done good. You done REAL good".

    A wonderful tribute and walk through emmory lane.

    Stay safe up there.

    1. Thank you, sir. Gene was really a bonus for me, I love him and had know idea he did so many HD/BB songs.