Gershwin Prize for Popular Song: Honoring Outstanding Talent

Presented to a composer or performer for their noteworthy contributions to popular music, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was created in 2007 in honor of songwriting duo George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Initiated by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the Gershwin Prize is awarded to a recipient who exemplifies the level of excellence associated with the Gershwin brothers.

The first recipient of the award in 2007 was Paul Simon, who gained fame in 1964 as part of duo Simon and Garfunkel, and continued to build a successful solo career when the duo split in 1970. In September 2008, it was announced that Stevie Wonder would be the second recipient of the Gershwin Prize, with Sir Paul McCartney receiving the award the following year. In September 2011, the Library of Congress announced that Hal David and Burt Bacharach would be the joint recipients of the fifth award. Unfortunately, due to ill health Hall David was unable to attend the tribute concert at the White House in May 2012. Sadly, Hal David passed away in Los Angeles on September 15, 2012 – he was 91 years old.

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, on May 25 1921, Hal David was most likely best known for his work with fellow award-winner Burt Bacharach and his friendship and collaboration with singer Dionne Warwick, who performed at the White House tribute concert in May. His first collaborative effort with Burt Bacharach, whom he met in New York in 1957, was the hit recorded by Marty Robbins in that year, The Story of My Life. During the 1960s and into the 1970s, the two wrote a host of memorable and enduring songs, many of which were recorded by top stars of the time including Dionne Warwick, The Carpenters, BJ Thomas, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, and Gene Pitney, among others. Movie title songs the duo composed included Alfie, What’s New Pussycat? and the Oscar award-winning Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.

In addition to working with Burt Bacharach, Hal David composed a string of hits as a solo songwriter and collaborated with other artists, including Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias on To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, and with John Barry on the theme for the 1969 James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – We Have All the Time in the World. Hal David’s legacy of popular music will live on.