Legendary lyricist Hal David died yesterday in Los Angeles at 91. Together with songwriting partner Burt Bacharach, David penned some of the most enduring songs of the last century, including ”I Say A Little Prayer, ” “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” “Walk On By,” “A House Is Not A Home,” ”What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” and “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” An abbreviated list of their better-known numbers, to be sure, so many of which continued to be covered today.
Three of the Bacharach & David classics called out above — “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk On By,” and “A House Is Not A Home” — were first recorded and released by Dionne Warwick. Originally a demo singer for the songwriting team, Warwick became the pair’s primary muse and recorded the majority of Bacharach & David’s output as an artist in her own right. Functioning as de facto trio (with Bacharach also serving as producer/arranger), they enjoyed a run of success in the mid-’60s the likes of which pop music wouldn’t again see until Janet Jackson teamed with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the ’80s (though Janet co-wrote many of her hits).
It was also during that ’80s that a new artist made a name for herself by recording a pair of songs from Warwick’s Bacharach & David discography. New Jersey R&B singer Sybil covered “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Walk On By,” releasing them as successive singles in 1989 and 1990.
Sybil’s new jack swing makeover of “Don’t Make Me Over” debuted on the Billboard R&B chart on July 29, 1989, becoming a #2 hit that October. On the Billboard Hot 100, her cover reached #20, one notch better than Warwick’s 1962 debut single.
Following in the Soul II Soul-style footsteps of “Don’t Make Me Over,” Sybil notched her second R&B hit with a cover of “Walk On By,” reaching #3 in February 1990. However, the news was nowhere near as good for her on the Hot 100, as her single ultimately stumbled at #74. Warwick’s original 1964 release of “Walk On By” was a #1 R&B hit, and reached #6 on the Hot 100.
Warwick’s collaborative period with Bacharach & David features so many amazing songs, but my favorite by far is “Anyone Who Had A Heart.” Haunting, dramatic, and featuring no less than three time-signature shifts, I’ve had the song stuck on repeat all morning. An epic piece of pop music, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” has been comparatively overlooked in retrospectives in the wake of Hal David’s death.
Warwick’s new album, Dionne, Now, scheduled for an October release, reportedly features several new tracks written by a reunited Bacharach & David.