Burt Bacharach and Hal David were introduced to each other in 1957 at New York's legendary Brill Building. In the 1960s they wrote a series of top 10 pop hits for artists like Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Jackie DeShannon. They became one of the legendary songwriting teams in pop music history. Combining Burt Bacharach's elegant music and arrangements with memorable words from Hal David, they created some of the most distinctive pop songs of the 1960s and 1970s. Their songs were frequently covered by other artists. The working partnership fell apart in 1973 in the wake of their disastrous commission to write the music for the film The Lost Horizon.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the positive minded "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" for the soundtrack of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It won the Academy Award for Best Song From a Motion Picture. B.J. Thomas recorded the version of the song used in the film and it became the first #1 pop song of the 1970s. Reportedly Ray Stevens and Bob Dylan were both given the option to record the song but declined. Burt Bacharach and Hal David produced the B.J. Thomas recording as well as writing the song. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" includes a horn solo, a frequent element of Burt Bacharach and Hal David productions, in the gently loping arrangement.
"I Say a Little Prayer" depicts a devotion to love so thorough that thoughts and deeds are focused on the lover nearly every moment of the day. The original version of the song was recorded by Dionne Warwick and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It became Dionne Warwick's fourth top 10 pop hit in 1967 and earned her third Grammy Award nomination. The performance is energetic as she glides through dynamic changes amid the elegant instrumental arrangement. "I Say a Little Prayer" hit the pop top 10 again in 1968 in a recording by Aretha Franklin.
Herb Alpert's recording of "This Guy's In Love With You" came about when Herb Alpert asked Burt Bacharach if there were any songs lying around that he and Hal David had never had anyone record. Herb Alpert was hoping to uncover a pearl. The song they gave to him was a simple, straightforward song in a range easy for Herb Alpert himself to sing. The result was not only Herb Alpert's first #1 pop hit, climbing to the top in 1968, but also the first #1 pop hit for his record label A&M. The song is also notable for its huge crescendos with cascading piano and a horn break common in Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs. "This Guy's In Love With You" has been recorded in cover versions by a wide range of artists.
4. "Walk On By"
Dionne Warwick recorded "Walk On By," with its elegant pop arrangement, in December 1963. Released in the spring it became her second top 10 pop hit and earned her first Grammy Award nomination. "Walk On By" is also notable for cover versions of the song. Isaac Hayes recorded a legendary 12 1/2 minute funk version of the song in 1969 for his Hot Buttered Soul album. Sybil took the song to the top 3 on the dance and R&B charts in 1990. "Walk On By" revisited the top 10 on the dance chart once again in 2004 with a version by Cyndi Lauper.
"(They Long To Be) Close To You" dates back to 1963. It was recorded by Richard Chamberlain but failed to become a hit. It was released as a single B-side in 1965 in a version recorded by Dionne Warwick. Herb Alpert was planning to record the song as a follow up to "This Guy's In Love With You." However, he was not pleased with his recording and gave the song to a newly signed act on his A&M label, the Carpenters. The result was a #1 pop hit in 1970 and the Carpenters earned the first of their three Grammy Awards.
"What the World Needs Now Is Love" is a song that was initially rejected by Dionne Warwick when it was offered to her to record. Instead singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon released it as a single in 1965 and it became her first top 10 pop hit and one of her signature songs. The record includes a very distinctive horn solo playing the hook. "What the World Needs Now Is Love" has inspired an extensive set of cover versions. In 1971 L.A. disc jockey Tom Clay combined the song with "Abraham, Martin, and John" and clips from speeches by John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. along with news coverage of their assassinations for a surprise top 10 pop hit.
Burt Bacharach has mentioned "Alfie" as his personal favorite composition. He and Hal David were enlisted to write a theme song for the film Alfie. The line, "What's it all about" is borrowed from the character in the movie. For the release of Alfie, a British film, it was decided that the song should be recorded by a British singer. Cilla Black was chosen, and, in a version produced by George Martin, the song hit the top 10 on the pop singles chart in the UK in 1966. For the US release of the film Cher recorded a version, and it became a minor top 40 pop hit. The song finally became a significant top 20 pop hit in the US when a version by Dionne Warwick, now seen as the definitive recording of the song, reached #15 in 1967. She performed "Alfie" at the 1967 Academy Awards celebration where it was nominated for Best Original Song.
Despite it being one of the biggest international hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the lyrical praises on "Do You Know the Way To San Jose" have been criticized as making for a less than sophisticated song. Dionne Warwick, who reached the pop top 10 with it in 1968 en route to winning a Grammy Award, has referred to it as a "dumb song." However, like other classic Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs, it has been the subject of extensive cover versions and is instantly memorable.
"One Less Bell To Answer" was originally written for legendary jazz singer Keely Smith in 1967. In 1969 producer Bones Howe discovered the song and brought it to the vocal group the Fifth Dimension. It was released as a single in 1970 and went to #2 on the pop singles chart becoming the group's fifth top 10 pop hit. In 1971 Barbra Streisand recorded a memorable medley of the song with "A House Is Not a Home" that was recently covered on the TV show Glee.
Recorded by singer-songwriter Gene Pitney and released in 1962, "Only Love Can Break a Heart" was one of the earliest major pop hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It climbed all the way to #2. The song reached the top 10 on the country chart twice in the 1970s in different recorded versions.