By Kenneth Jones
21 May 2012
The White House echoed with the popular songs of composer Bacharach and lyricist David — known for hit tunes, including those from the Broadway musical Promises, Promises — on May 9, when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama presided over "In Performance at the White House."
The starry occasion celebrated the presentation by President Obama of the Library of Congress' 2012 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to composer Bacharach, 83, and lyricist David, 90. Bacharach was in attendance, but David, recovering from a recent stroke, was not there to hear Stevie Wonder sing "Alfie," one of the team's many hits in a 50-year career.
The performers also included Mike Myers, Lyle Lovett, Rumer, Sheléa and Arturo Sandoval.
The Gershwin prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the American songwriting team whose extensive collection resides in the Library of Congress.
Read more about Bacharach and David's Broadway musical Promises, Promises (and its 2010 revival) in the Playbill Vault. The show launched the hit title tune as well as "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," in which David famously rhymed "phone ya" with "pneumonia." In 2003, Roundabout Theatre Company produced a short-lived Broadway revue of their songs, The Look of Love.
Events preceding the May 9 White House concert included meetings with members of Congress and an all-star tribute concert May 8 at the Library's Coolidge Auditorium. The team's muse and signature voice, Dionne Warwick, performed at the Library concert.
The Grammy- and Academy-Award-winning team of Bacharach and David began collaborating in the 1950s at the Famous Paramount Music Co. in New York's Brill Building. Their songs are still recorded today. Bacharach premiered a new musical, Some Lovers, with collaborator Steven Sater at The Old Globe in San Diego in late 2011. Read Playbill.com's coverage here.
According to the Library of Congress, the first Bacharach/David song recorded in the U.S. 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.
Their catalog includes "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."
The song list as performed in the East Room of the White House on May 9 follows. The final PBS/WETA broadcast song list may not reflect this exact content.
House Band Overture
"Do You Know the Way to San Jose"/"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"
1. Lyle Lovett & Sheryl Crow: "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"
2. Stevie Wonder (with Arturo Sandoval): "Make It Easy on Yourself"
3. Diana Krall: "Look of Love"
4. Michael Feinstein: "Close to You"
5. Mike Myers: "What's New Pussycat"
6. Sheléa: "Anyone Who Had a Heart"
7. Lyle Lovett: "Always Something There to Remind Me"
8. Sheryl Crow: "Walk On By"
9. Rumer: "A House is Not a Home"
10. Stevie Wonder: "Alfie"
Presentation of the Gershwin Prize by President Obama
11. All-Cast Finale: "What the World Needs Now is Love"
The house band included Robert Mounsey (music director, piano and keyboards), David Mann (saxophone), Anthony Kadleck (trumpet), Henry Hey (keyboards), David Finck (bass), Ben Butler (guitar), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), Shawn Pelton (drums), Fonzi Thornton (background vocals), Vaneese Thomas (background vocals), Jill Dell'Abate (background vocals).
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song "honors artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by bridging musical styles, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering their mutual respect and appreciation."
In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress turned for advice to leading members of the music and entertainment communities. The 2012 award advisory committee consisted of Elvis Costello, Bobette Dudley, Paul McCartney, Rickey Minor, Paul Simon, Lee Ann Womack and Stevie Wonder.
Bacharach and David have collaborated with other songwriters. Their most prolific time together was in the 1960s up to a hiatus in the mid-1970s. They reunited in the early 1990s with Dionne Warwick, writing a song titled "Sunny Weather Lover" for her "Friends Can Be Lovers" album.
Bacharach won three Academy Awards and eight Grammy Awards, including the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1997 Trustees Award, both of which he shares with David. David 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 1996 he and Burt Bacharach received the Johnny Mercer Award from the national Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2011, the Hall also presented David with its Visionary Leadership Award.