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Tiny Dramas In Subtle Rhyme - The Genius Of Hal David


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Hal David
The master lyricist wrote in the people's language, but with complexity to match Bacharach's tunes.

Hal David's life was the spectacle of a hard thing done well, with grace.

David completed his song in Los Angeles on Sept. 1, at 91. As a musician and lyric-writer, I grew up with his words, especially his celebrated work with Burt Bacharach. How easy the words rode - how twisty the musical rails.

I asked a very accomplished songman, Paul Williams ("We've Only Just Begun" and much else), who is president and chairman of the board of the music company ASCAP, what he valued about his friend's lyrics. In an e-mail, Williams nailed it.

“Part of the magic and beauty of the Bacharach-David collaboration," he wrote, “was that Hal was able to fashion such simple, direct, and poignant lyrics to Bacharach's melodically and rhythmically sophisticated music. It takes a master lyricist to be able to do that so artfully. Hal was the perfect wordsmith for Burt's musical flights of fancy. The combination of their two sensibilities gave their songs a freshness and immediacy that still endures today."

Let's think about his words and what he did well.

Williams has already captured David's knack - natural words for tough music. But he also told great stories, stories of his moment, and created engaging characters and situations.

He managed to make something memorable out of many everyday scenarios. Eric Bazilian, singer-songwriter of the hallowed Philly band the Hooters, and a huge fan of David's work, says his “genius lay in his ability to transform the mundane into the sublime."

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