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Dionne Warwick sings Hal David's last lyrics

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:25 AM EDT, Mon September 3, 2012
Hal David's last project was a reunion with singer Dionne Warwick (pictured on May 8, 2012) and composer Burt Bacharach
Hal David's last project was a reunion with singer Dionne Warwick (pictured on May 8, 2012) and composer Burt Bacharach
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dionne Warwick was the most prolific interpreter of David and Bacharach songs
  • "Don't Make Me Over" was the first David-Bacharach hit for Warwick, in November 1962
  • "I will always have him with me each time I sing the lyrics written for me by him," Warwick says
  • David, 91, died Saturday from complications of a stroke

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Hal David's last songwriting project was a reunion with two people with whom he had some of his greatest success starting 50 years ago: Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, according to Warwick's representative.

David, who wrote the lyrics to many of Warwick's biggest hits, died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles from complications of a stroke, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers said Saturday. He was 91.

"I feel as if I have lost another family member, but knowing I will always have him with me each time I sing the lyrics written for me by him will continue to bring me a sense of him being with me always," Warwick said Sunday in a statement to CNN.

Warwick was a 21-year-old songstress backing up the Drifters in a New York recording session in 1962 when David and Bacharach -- who began collaborating on pop tunes five years earlier -- fell in love with her voice.

She became the most prolific interpreter of David and Bacharach songs, starting with "Don't Make Me Over," released in November 1962. Other 1960s classics from the team include "Walk On By," "Message to Michael," "Alfie," "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"

David and Bacharach, who parted ways as regular collaborators in the 1970s, came together recently to write several new songs for Warwick's 50th anniversary album, Warwick's rep said. "Dionne, Now" is set for release in October.

David started working with Bacharach in the late 1950s on tunes recorded by artists including Perry Como, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand and Warwick. In May, President Barack Obama and the first lady hosted a concert honoring Bacharach and David as part of the "In Performance at the White House" series.

Herb Alpert, who sang and played trumpet on David and Bacharach's chart-topping pop hit "This Guy's in Love With You" in 1968, called David "a gentleman genius, whose lyrics touch the soul."

"As a lyric writer, Hal was simple, concise and poetic -- conveying volumes of meaning in fewest possible words and always in service to the music," said ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams. "It is no wonder that so many of his lyrics have become part of our everyday vocabulary and his songs ... the backdrop of our lives."

Singer Smokey Robinson on Saturday said David was one of his songwriting idols when he was growing up.

"I hope that the music world will join together in celebrating the life of one of our greatest composers ever," Robinson said in a statement Saturday. "I will really miss my friend but I will celebrate his life and he will live on-and-on through his incredible musical contribution."

Lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, who also worked extensively with then-husband Burt Bacharach, said David made Bacharach's melodies seem "effortless."

David was president of ASCAP from 1980 till 1986.

The Recording Academy called David an "exquisite lyricist" whose work has left a "lasting impact on our culture."

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents who had immigrated from Austria. He studied journalism at New York University before joining the military during World War II.

Returning to New York after the war, he began working with songwriters he met at the famous Brill Building, which at the time was the center of the city's song industry, ASCAP said.

It was his collaboration with Bacharach that proved the most fruitful. They were some of the first to work with Warwick when she was a young vocalist.

They also helped Herb Alpert reach No. 1 with "This Guy's in Love With You" and wrote The Carpenters' No. 1 hit "(They Long to Be) Close to You."

British invasion stars like Springfield and Sandie Shaw sought the pair's talents in the 1960s, and they got Tom Jones into the Top 10 with "What's New Pussycat."

The pair's accomplishments extended to stage and screen as well. They wrote scores and themes for 1960s films including "Alfie" and "Casino Royale." Their "Raindrops" tune was written for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and reached No. 1.

They wrote the score for the musical "Promises, Promises," which was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Grammy for Best Cast Album of the Year in 1970.

David parted ways with Bacharach in the early 1970s, but he went on to work with other composers, including Albert Hammond -- with whom he wrote "To All the Girls I've Loved Before."

His first wife, Anne, died in 1987. He is survived by his wife, Eunice; two sons, three grandchildren, and two stepsons.

David's older brother Mack, who died in 1991, was also a famous songwriter who wrote such hits as "La Vie en Rose," "Candy," and "Bibiddi-Bobbidi-Boo."

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report.

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