I was born in the 60′s and not surprisingly became a teenager in the 70′s. Our home was always filled with music and my mother, was always singing or playing records by her favorites, such as Neil Sedaka, The Everly Brothers, Perry Como, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley, Gene Pitney and Patsy Cline to name a few.
Early hours of last Saturday morning I heard of Hal Davids passing in Los Angeles, just before I went to bed and thought how ironic, that only earlier in the day I listened to songs by Carol King, James Taylor and Neil Diamond amongst others who have all at some point, co-written or sang Hal Davids lyrics.
I wasn’t aware who Hal David was when I was three, but I’m reliably informed that I was singing and humming some of the songs he wrote. What I couldn’t pronounce or decipher were hummed or da da da’d. Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head was a favorite of my brothers, sister and I. Magic Moments, a very up beat melody Perry Como made famous in 1957, long before I was born, was one of those songs written by him. Maybe it was the fun way my mum sang it with us and her animations, that made it so catchy and elementary enough for my siblings and I to learn.
“The penny arcade, the games that we played
The fun and the prizes
The Halloween hop when everyone came In funny disguises
Magic moments Memories we’ve been sharin’ “…………
Music can be soundtracks to different stages of our lives, it evokes memories like nothing else and I don’t know about you, but for me it can even bring back smells I associate with a place or a moment, the sound of the ocean, cooking and even the fuel of the small boats at the jetty we took to the sleepy small Island off Lagos, where as a kid I spent several school holidays with my family. That’s the emotional power a lyricist wields with his words and the composer with his arrangements.
On his web site, Hal David wrote about how What The World Needs Now is Love, a song Dionne Warwick made a hit, came about . Various people have recorded it, but it is an interpretation of it in 1971 by a DJ from Detroit called Tom Clay , that was later to catch my attention. I wasn’t aware of who Tom Clay was until I met him in 1989 in Los Angeles, when he became my voice over coach after being encouraged by an actor friend of mine to contact him. My friend thought I could make a go of doing voice-overs for commercials and other things and recommended Tom’s voice-over work-shop and studio to make a demo.
Before he began doing voice overs,Tom Clay had been a well known radio DJ in the mid-west and proved just as popular when he relocated to Los Angeles. For a short time, Marilyn Monroe would call him while he was on air to talk when she was lonely. Another element of his life I wasn’t aware of until I read Goddess: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summer’s biography on Monroe, while locked up at a county jail in LA waiting to go to state prison. It was then I call him to confirm, it was also how he found out where I was and was there a few days later to visit me.
Clay made an interpretation of What The World Needs Now is Love (see YouTube video below) on the Motown label and mixed it with extracts of a song written Dick Holler - Abraham, Martin, John, sound bites from speeches by Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy and an ongoing dialogue between Clay and a young boy. The result was a powerful social commentary that became a surprise hit in the summer of 1971.
David wrote on his website: “In writing I search for believability, simplicity, and emotional impact. Believability is the easiest of the three to accomplish”. This probably explains why and how his lyrics could be interpreted in so many ways and styles, even as a social commentary at a pivotal time in American history.
Requiescat in pace Hal Lane David
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