Ed Bedford 12:18 p.m., May 22
Over the years I've interviewed at least a thousand people. A favorite will always be the one with the late Hal David (who died Saturday) a few years back.
A Hall of Famer, David wrote the lyrics for "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," "What the World Needs Now Is Love," "Don't Make Me Over" (in my personal top 10; sung by Dionne Warwick), and a score of other songs with Burt Bacharach; plus, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before (with Albert Hammond) and Sarah Vaughn's "Broken Hearted Melody," among many others.
To reach someone with top celebrity status — like a David or a Bacharach — you must go through channels. You contact his agent's secretary, who will interview you. If you respond correctly, you can talk to the agent, who will ask more questions and may, or may not, grant you audience with the celebrity. In some cases, the agent will refer you to an insider paid to screen interviewers. This time the questions feel like an interrogation under a solitary light bulb.
When I finally got through to David, his wife Eunice answered the phone. Asked if I could speak to Hal, she happily replied, "oh sure, I'll call him," as if they'd known me for years.
"This is Hal," he said, "what's up?"
Okay, interviews of this sort often have unstated time limits. These can depend on the subject's status (some only give five minutes, others 10 or more, so ask your question and listen up), or on the interviewer's: the status of the publication, the size of its audience. In either case, the process is a monologue, a one-way street with a stop sign dead ahead.
Hal David broke every rule. From the start the interview was a dialogue. We talked about music; where it was, is, and is going. We talked a lot about writing: his and even mine for criminey's sake. And about writing lyrics (a path I almost chose way back before the day).
He said he had no formula. And that "sometimes one just pops into my head." Or a title or a phrase can suggest a stanza or two. He said he didn't give a thought about style, but prized "simplicity" and "emotional impact."
Like most artists he was his own sternest critic. He confessed that only one lyric achieved everything he wanted it to do: "What the World Needs Now."
I jumped in, and by this time, given the flow of the conversation, it was easily done. "That song's got one of my all-time favorite lines in popular music! "Lord, we don't need another mountain."
His too. When it came to him, he said, the rest of the song fell into place.
As I said, we were talking like personal friends by now, so I felt free to shoot for the stratosphere. "That one line could solve the battle of Creation versus Evolution!"
"Hear me out. It implies that creation is ongoing, right? The Lord's still building. Could erect another Everest of K2 as we speak. He will rest on the Seventh Day, which has yet to come!"
"Oh," he said, then added, as polite as can be, "never thought of that before."
But rather than hang up on an interviewer from Out There, David kept talking. When we finally did ring off - because I had to go - he said, "if you're ever up this way, Eunice and I'd love to have you over."
To this day I believe he meant it.