PBS Television this weekend began showing What the World Needs Now: Words by Hal David—a musical tribute to the lyricist who wrote some of American pop music’s most enduring songs—around the country as part of the network’s pledge drive week.
Hosted by Bette Midler, the program covers his singular partnership with composer Burt Bacharach, with whom he delivered dozens of Top 40 hit recordings throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, including the 1965 Jackie DeShannon hit from which What the World Needs Now: Words by Hal David takes its name.
Other immortal hits from the Bacharach-David catalog include B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love,” Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat,” and numerous hits forever linked to Dionne Warwick, among them: “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?,” “Walk on By,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “A House Is Not a Home” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
Bacharach and Warwick are among those interviewed for the PBS special, as are Thomas, Valerie Simpson, music writer Francis Davis and NPR’s Terry Gross. Also featured are archival performances from Warwick, DeShannon, Springfield, Thomas, Jones, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Barbra Streisand and Glen Campbell. Additionally, David’s own oral histories and talk-show appearances provide first-person commentary regarding his childhood, songwriting craft, and numerous honors including Grammy Awards and 1970 Academy Award for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid soundtrack.
Besides his work with Bacharach, Brooklyn-born David, who died in 2012, collaborated with other composers, and served the music industry in other capacities, most notably as the head of the performing rights organization The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and The Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“It was truly a labor of love for me to produce this PBS television special dedicated to Hal David,” says Karen Sherry, who was senior VP for ASCAP when David was president, and is co-producer of What the World Needs Now: Words by Hall David with Emmy-nominated director/producer (Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like) John Paulson.
“For those of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with Hal, we recognized that in addition to his enormous talent as a lyricist, he was a brilliant businessman and leader and a very loyal friend. His passionate words didn’t seem to match his rather self-effacing personality--which proves how much of his inner self was expressed in his words. He was a magic man, and I am so grateful to be able to spread some of his magic through this show.”