Can we be living in a world made of paper mache?
Everything is clean and so neat.
Anything that’s wrong can be just swept away.
Spray it with cologne, and the whole world smells sweet.
– Lyrics from the song “Paper Mache’” by Bacharach & David
Those are words from my childhood that still stick with me to this day. Simple, effective, thought-provoking. Those are words of the great Hal David.
David — the outrageously talented lyricist, who partnered with music great Burt Bacharach to create some of the most iconic songs of the 1960s and 1970s — died just a few days ago at the age of 91. Partnered with the vocally-agile Miss Dionne Warwick, they took pop music to incredible heights and created tunes that are beautiful, unique and timeless.
When I was starting to write my own music, I looked to Bacharach and David for inspiration constantly. From an early age, their music resonated within me, and when I began developing my own style I wanted to know why. Bacharach’s tunes were catchy and unusual, taking twists and turns you would never suspect, almost as if they were a hybrid of pop and classical. David’s words were earthy and heartfelt; simple, yet sophisticated. Whilst the tunes of Bacharach took you all over the stratosphere, the words of David kept things grounded and accessible. (Look at Burt Bacharach’s work post Hal David and you will see that things never really worked so well without him.) They were the perfect balance of innovation, sentimentality and tradition.
Warwick said of David in his book What the World Needs Now and Other Love Lyrics, “Hal doesn’t just write songs. He writes himself. There’s nothing contrived in what he does. He doesn’t use a formula. He goes by feeling.” It is a basic approach, yet one that very few are willing to take. And it is that willingness to express himself so freely and revealingly that made the words of Hal David so effective.
David never really got the credit he was due, and that’s part of why he split with Bacharach. To this day, many think that Bacharach wrote all those songs by himself. Their partnership truly was a partnership, and each played a pivotal role. I saw Bacharach & Warwick in Long Beach several years back, and Hal David came in as a surprise guest toward the end of the show. I knew immediately who it was, jumped to my feet and started to applaud. I was the only one. Bacharach actually had to introduce the audience to Hal David, saying, “He is the one who wrote all these wonderful lyrics.”
Though he may always have to play second fiddle in the big scheme of things, Hal David was a superstar in his own right, and those who care to know will always appreciate the love and wonder he brought to the world.