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September 28, 2011
Burt Bacharach, Hal David Named Recipients of Fourth Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, announced today that Grammy- and Academy-Award-winning songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David will join the ranks of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney as recipients of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Bacharach and David each will receive the Library’s Gershwin Medal next spring at an all-star tribute in Washington D.C. This will be the fourth time the honor has been awarded and the first time to a songwriting team.
For more than a half-century the collaboration of Bacharach-David has created such beloved songs as "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," "What the World Needs Now is Love," "Walk on By" and "Alfie."
"The timeless hits by Burt Bacharach and Hal David have helped launch the careers of many of our nation’s most celebrated performers, and they continue to be played on iPods, radio, television, in movies, and performed in cabarets and on the Broadway stage. The success of their creative genius continues today as they each add new songs to what is without question one of the richest and most recognizable multi-generational playlists known to the world," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "Their creative talents have inspired songwriters for more than five decades, and their legacy is much in the tradition of George and Ira Gershwin, for whom this award is named."
"I've been fortunate to receive a number of music-industry honors during my career," said David, who in addition to his songwriting career has served as president and on the board of directors of the musicians' intellectual property organization the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). "However, the news of being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize was especially meaningful to me. I am humbled and excited at the same time to receive this prestigious award," he said.
"It’s a great honor to receive this award and to follow the past recipients, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney – it doesn’t get any better than this," said Bacharach, who has also enjoyed a solo career as a performer and has continued writing songs in collaboration with such talents as Carole Bayer Sager (with whom he wrote "That's What Friends are For") and Elvis Costello (with whom he won a Grammy for the song "I Still Have That Other Girl").
David, 90, a lyricist, and Bacharach, 83, who wrote the music, first began collaborating in the 1950s at the Famous Paramount Music Co. in New York's storied Brill Building. Today, their songs continue to be recorded by such artists as Diana Krall, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and the cast of the television show "Glee."
Their extensive catalogs can be tracked through their registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a part of the Library of Congress: the first Bacharach/David song recorded in the Copyright Office is "Peggy's in the Pantry," dated May 9, 1956.
Among their first big sellers were "The Story of My Life," which became a hit for Marty Robbins, and "Magic Moments," performed by Perry Como. Between 1962 and 1972, their songs were almost continuously listed on Billboard Magazine's singles chart.
In the 1960s and 1970s they were almost as well-known as the singers they wrote for -- who included Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Tom Jones, Jackie DeShannon, Gene Pitney and Herb Alpert. Their work in that period included "Only Love Can Break a Heart," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Make It Easy On Yourself," "Close to You," "A House is Not a Home," "There's Always Something There to Remind Me," "One Less Bell to Answer," and "This Guy's in Love With You," among many other songs. Movie-related songs they wrote together include "Alfie," "What's New Pussycat?," "The Look of Love," "After the Fox," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Scores of films have incorporated their songs, including "Forrest Gump," "Catch Me If You Can" and "The First Wives' Club."
Both Bacharach and David have collaborated with other songwriters, both prior to their Brill Building days and after their main collaboration had a hiatus during the mid-1970s. They reunited in the early 1990s with Dionne Warwick, offering a song titled "Sunny Weather Lover" for her "Friends Can Be Lovers" album. They also produced a new song, "You've Got It All Wrong," for the revival of a musical they co-wrote in the late 1960s, "Promises, Promises."
Bacharach studied piano early in his life and became a great fan of bebop jazz. After meeting singer Vic Damone during a stint in the Army, he performed with Damone and other singers and studied music at McGill University and the Mannes School of Music. His composition teachers included the composers Darius Milhaud, Henry Cowell and Bohuslav Martinu (all of whom were awarded multiple commissions by the Library of Congress). Early in Bacharach's career, he served for three years as actress Marlene Dietrich's musical director.
Bacharach still tours and performs across the globe, and made cameo appearances in all three "Austin Powers" movies. Bacharach also has made numerous television appearances, including several television specials in the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2005 he released the album "At This Time," featuring contributions by Dr. Dre, Chris Botti, Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Bacharach also served as a celebrity judge and vocal coach during the 2006 season of the television show "American Idol," which devoted one show to his music; he has also appeared on the show "Dancing With the Stars." His work has won three Academy Awards and eight Grammy Awards, including one he shares with David, the 1997 Trustees Award. Bacharach’s others are for "Alfie," Best Musical Arrangement, 1967; "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," Best Original Score for a Motion Picture, 1969; "Promises, Promises," Best Score From an Original Cast Show Album, 1969; "That’s What Friends Are For," Song of the Year, 1986; "I Still Have That Other Girl," Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (with Elvis Costello), 1998; and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
David has his name on 20 gold records and has won several Grammy Awards; he also has received the Presidential Award from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and the B'Nai B'rith Creative Achievement Award. As a recipient of the Ivor Novello Award, he became the first American to achieve that honor. In 1984 he was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; and in 1996 he and Burt Bacharach received the coveted Johnny Mercer Award from the national Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2011, the Hall also presented David with its Visionary Leadership Award, and in 2004, named "What the World Needs Now is Love" as its "Towering Song." ASCAP estimates that the song has been aired on the radio more than 2 million times. In addition to his work with ASCAP, David is a member of the Board of Governors of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Board of Visitors of Claremont Graduate University in California; is a founder of the Los Angeles Music Center; and serves on the advisory board of the Society of Singers. David holds honorary doctoral degrees from Lincoln College in Illinois and Claremont Graduate University.
The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. In 2007 Paul Simon received the first Gershwin Prize, Stevie Wonder received the second in 2009, and the third was awarded to Sir Paul McCartney in 2010. The creators and executive producers of the Gershwin Prize all-star tribute are James H. Billington, Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, Cappy McGarr and Dalton Delan.
The George and Ira Gershwin Collection is the world's preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers. It contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into their careers and personalities, including manuscripts and printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. The Gershwin Room--a permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work--features George's piano and desk, Ira's typing table and typewriter, self-portraits of both brothers and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as "Lady Be Good," "Funny Face," "Girl Crazy" and "Of Thee I Sing." Given the Library's long association with the Gershwin family and the profound effect the brothers had on the evolution of American music, it is fitting that the Library memorialize this relationship in the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
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