Hal David 90th Birthday Salute

Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick and More Line Up for Hal David 90th Birthday Salute 


Update Sept. 2, 2012: The world lost a great man Saturday, when Hal David died. My husband and I had the great privilege of attending a small dinner party, which Hal and Eunice graciously hosted at their art-filled Los Angeles apartment on behalf of the Council of the Los Angeles Library Foundation. Among other memories I have of that night, Hal told the charming story – his eyes twinkling all the while – of how he thought up the lyrics for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” when he and Burt Bacharach were asked to come up with a song to fill a few minutes of “business” in the film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” At another dinner party, this time at the home of Joni and Clarke Smith, he told me of his work on behalf of ASCAP, where he once served as president. My husband and I also attended the extraordinary Blue Ribbon celebration of Hal’s 90th birthday, when so many legendary recording stars came to Los Angeles to serenade the iconic songwriter with his own songs – songs that are now part of our lives.  That story is below.   


“Love Sweet Love,” just as the invitation read, poured from 750 well-wishers at the Oct. 17 ninetieth birthday celebration for Hal David at the Mark Taper Forum Monday. The heartfelt tribute to the multiple-award-winning lyricist featured a star-studded concert, followed by a gala dinner at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, all to benefit the Blue Ribbon support group of the Music Center of Los Angeles County and the ASCAP Foundation.

Legendary singers and songwriters lined up for the Hal David 90th birthday salute to serenade David with his own words, among them Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Lani Hall, Smokey Robinson, Jackie DeShannon, Liz Callaway, Dwight Yoakam, Albert Hammond, Michele Lee, B.J. Thomas, Steve Tyrell, Valerie Simpson and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Academy Award-winning composer Paul Williams acted as emcee, and as a special surprise to the audience, Stevie Wonder flew in from the east coast.  

So eager were performers to participate that after I tweeted a month ago about how thrilled I was to hear about the show, Hammond tweeted back, “So am I. I love Hal. He is a wonderful human being and I’m proud to be his friend.”  At the concert, Hammond sang “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” which he co-wrote with David.

The night was filled with more of David’s award-winning classics, starting with DeShannon’s version of “What the World Needs Now is Love,”  which she later described as “my little jewel in the sky,” which she had the honor to introduce to the world and then sing at the Hal David 90th birthday celebration.

As emcee, Williams reminded the audience that David began his career in the armed forces, reciting the lyrics to one of David’s first tunes, “Send a Salami to your Boy in the Army. “ He then read a long list of David’s Academy Award and Grammy Award winners, along with the Songwriting Hall of Famer’s many other accolades, including his recent star on Hollywood Boulevard and his Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (Williams also mentioned that David’s picture now hangs at Pink’s Hot Dogs.)

David’s classics in the concert also included “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head,”  “Walk on By,” “The Look of Love,” “Close to You,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” “Reach Out for Me,” “Message to Michael,” “A House is not a Home,” “Make It Easy on Yourself,” and others.

Yoakam sang a country rendition of “Trains and Boats and Planes,” and then thanked David for the song, which he recorded, and the inspiration to become a songwriter.  Yoakam said that after hearing David’s lyrics, he said he thought, “How does this guy write about Kentucky bluebirds (in ‘Message to Michael?’) This guy in Brooklyn?”

Aside from singing, performers took a moment to express their affection and birthday wishes to David.  “Hal – this guy’s in love with you,” Alpert said, after singing the song of the same name.

“I’ve been backstage listening,” said Robinson, as he settled down to the piano for his number. “Hal and Burt – you wrote everything.”

And when longtime collaborator Bacharach took his turn at the piano, he sang “Alfie.” This special favorite of Bacharach’s, like so many others on the night’s program, had been one of Warwick’s hits, which prompted the legendary singer to say that when she first saw the night’s song list, she figured her job was to be emcee. 

So Warwick sang a medley, giving the audience a show in itself. Included were “Don’t Make  Me Over,” ”Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Always Something There to Remind Me,” and more.

“I can’t believe we wrote all those songs,” said David at the show’s close, as he addressed an audience, which included such icons of the music business as Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown record label; Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M Records; and composers Jimmy Webb, Tena Clark, Charlie Fox, Stan Freberg, Ken Hirsch, David Newman and Rudy Perez.

At the dinner which followed the musical Hal David 90th birthday salute, Blue Ribbon president Constance Towers Gavin thanked the many people who made the gala possible, as she had earlier at the concert. Among them were gala chair Eunice David; honorary chairs Merle and Peter Mullin and Eva and Marc Stern; John LoFrumento, CEO of ASCAP; Karen Sherry, producer of the night’s show; and fire marshall Ben Flores, who helped the group find safe ways to squeeze extra seats into the show.

Event chair Ricki Ring said the demand for tickets was so high and the waiting list was so long that if anyone had to cancel, she resold their seats over again.  

More event chairs were Judith Beckmen, Joan Hotchkis, Judith Krantz, Joyce Kresa and Joni Smith. Donanne Kasikci led the dinner committee, which was co-chaired by Carol Goldsmith and Louise Korshak.

“Who would have thought,” said Eunice David, on taking the podium, “that 23 years ago when I married Hal that we would be standing here today basking in the aftermath of this show?”

Hal David noted that he’d had 90 birthdays, to be exact. “This is far and away the greatest,” he said.

The Blue Ribbon of the Music Center promotes and supports the educational, cultural, and community programs of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, in addition to staging the annual Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival.

The ASCAP Foundation nurtures the musical talents of tomorrow, preserves the legacy of the past and serves the music community with educational, professional, and humanitarian programs and activities. 

Top photo: Dionne Warwick with Burt Bacharach, left, and Hal David, right at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute (photo: Edmund Olivier)

Second photo: Legendary recording stars lined up to pay tribute to Hal David, center, at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute That’s a birthday cake in front of the group. (photo: Edmund Olivier)

Third photo: Eunice David and Berry Gordy at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute (photo: Edmund Olivier)

Fourth photo: from left, Herb Alpert, Paul Williams and Lani Hall at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute (photo: Vince Bucci Photography)

Fifth photo: from left, B.J. Thomas, Liz Callaway and Albert Hammond at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute (photo: Vince Bucci Photography)

Sixth photo: from left, Jackie “What the World Needs Now” DeShannon, Hal David and Michele Lee at the Hal David 90th Birthday Salute (photo: Vince Bucci Photography)

Additional photos in the gallery below by Vince Bucci and Howard Pasamanick 



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Hal David 90th Birthday Salute

Published Oct. 19, 2011; updated Sept. 2, 2012  – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA