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Hal David (1921–2012)

Most people have heard that Hal David, the lyricist who gave life to music written by Burt Bacharach, died Saturday at age 91.

TDMB did a post on July 12 that featured music by the team. I made the mistake that many folks make, which was to focus mostly on Bacharach.

Of course, Bacharach is great, gifted and unique composer. But the greatness of David tends to get lost. Bacharach is photogenic and, through his appearances in the Austin Powers movies and his collaborations with Elvis Costello, was more in the public eye than David. But David’s lyrics were an indispensable part of the formula.

Fans of the duo suggest with great justification that they captured the cultural identity of the 1960s and 1970s. If so, it was as much — or perhaps more — David’s doing. And, if it was true, it’s quite an achievement. That period was enormously complex and nuanced. Indeed, culturally it must have been a more difficult time to define than the 1940s of World War II and the 1950s of Eisenhower. To get the sense of it into songs about raindrops, saying a little prayer or the desire to recapture a simpler time is a feat.

As a kid growing up during those days, I had no idea who Bacharach and David were. But their songs–particularly Do You Know the Way to San Jose–represented a vision of the older generation that was far more benign and reasonable than the one that was carelessly sacrificing kids not too much older than I in Vietnam. The song, my favorite by Bacharach and David, also elicits a remarkable sense of nostalgia.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.