Join Host Bette Midler For PBS’s “What the World Needs Now: Words by Hal David”

Bette Midler Hosts Hal David Tribute On PBS The Month Of March 2019

Bette Midler with songwriting legend Hal David

Mister D: This special started tonight, but it’s playing across the states on different dates. There’s link enclosed to check your local listings. Supposedly you can stream it online, but I can’t figure out where. It might be on the webpage of your local PBS station. I’m just not sure.
Bette Midler is the host and narrator, but only appears sporadically. She is a big fan of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But just on the top of my head, I can’t ever remember her singing one of their songs. They did score and write a song for Isn’t She Great, though.

Hosted by an ardent admirer, Bette Midler, WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS

NOW: WORDS BY HAL DAVID is a musical tribute to the man who wrote some of the most enduring songs in American popular music. In partnership with composer Burt Bacharach, the duo dominated the pop-music charts in the 1960s and early 70s and crafted dozens of Top 40 hit recordings which are now timeless. WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: WORDS BY HAL DAVID is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations in March 2019 (check local listings).

Among Bacharach and David’s greatest hits:

  • “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”
  • “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”
  • “What the World Needs Now Is Love”
  • “Walk on By”
  • “Alfie”
  • “The Look of Love”
  • “I Say a Little Prayer
  • “A House Is Not a Home”
  • “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”
  • “What’s New, Pussycat”

Guests interviewed for the program include Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson, B. J. Thomas, music writer Francis Davis and NPR’s Terry Gross, along with a cavalcade of music-clip performances from Aretha Franklin, Cher, Barbra Streisand, B. J. Thomas, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Jackie DeShannon, Glen Campbell and, of course, the fabulous Warwick, who is the inspirational muse for almost the entire Bacharach-David songbook.

Hal David’s own oral histories and talk-show appearances provide a first-person commentary about his childhood, the craft of songwriting and his many accolades and honors, including Grammy Awards, four Academy Award nominations for Best Song, a Tony nomination for the Broadway show Promises, Promises,and a 1970 Oscar for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Brooklyn-born Hal David (1921-2012) began his songwriting career at the legendary Brill Building in Manhattan after service in World War II. Before he teamed up with Bacharach, David had worked with several different composers and achieved only halting success with pop songs for Vic Damone (“The Four Winds and the Seven Seas”), Teresa Brewer (“Bell Bottom Blues”) and Frank Sinatra (“American Beauty Rose”). By contrast, David’s initial collaborations with Bacharach in 1957 brought almost immediate success, with “The Story of My Life,” by country star Marty Robbins, and “Magic Moments,” an enormous international hit for Perry Como.

“Don’t Make Me Over,” Dionne Warwick’s first recording in 1962, launched the decade-long explosion of musical creativity and chart-topping hits that encompass the Bacharach-David songbook. It was the hard-rock era, a time torn by war and protest, but young hearts still yearned for love, and nobody articulated that yearning more memorably than Hal David.

His unadorned, conversational style, with Bacharach’s soaring melodies, found fertile ground not only in pop records around the world but also on Broadway, in dozens of Hollywood films, and most enduringly at weddings, where Karen and Richard Carpenter’s (“They Long to Be) Close to You”became the classic “first-dance” tune. The brilliant songwriting partnership ended unhappily in 1973, when the pressures of unimaginable success as well as a colossal Hollywood failure (the movie musical Lost Horizon) became too much for the team to sustain.

PBS special programming invites viewers to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. Viewer contributions are an important source of funding, making PBS programs possible. PBS and public television stations offer all Americans from every walk of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content.

Underwriters: Public Television Viewers and PBS

Produced by: John Paulson and James Arntz

Written by: James Arntz

Executive Producer: John Paulson and Karen Sherry

Production Company: John Paulson Productions

For images and additional up-to-date information on this and other PBS programs, visit PBS PressRoom at

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7 thoughts on “Join Host Bette Midler For PBS’s “What the World Needs Now: Words by Hal David”

  1. I saw this last night, as my DVR is set to record all things Bette. I almost deleted the show without seeing it, as I thought the program somehow recorded by accident. So glad I didn’t. The tribute to Hal David was amazing. Bette looked terrific and gave very animated, sincere, and heartfelt introductions to Mr. David’s body of work.

    The program was 90 minutes long, and a PBS fundraiser. I believe the cost for the CD and the DVD was $144. I understand Bette’s enthusiasm for Hal David. Along with Burt Bacharach, David was responsible for writing the lyrics to such an incredible array of songs, his contribution to the world of music should not go unnoticed. His Broadway hit, was “Promises, Promises”.

    Although I always attributed Bacharach-David songs to Dionne Warwick, I was impressed with Cher’s version of “Alfie” (David’s favorite song), and Streisand’s medley of “One Less Bell to Answer” and “A House is not a Home”.

    Aside from the mostly female (diva) singers, David also wrote a few more male-centric songs, such as “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and Willie Nelson’s (and Julio Iglesias’) “To all the Girls I’ve Loved before”. It wasn’t until it was pointed out how profound and impactful David’s lyrics were, with just the simplest of phrasing, that I realized what a true master and genius Hal David was. Perhaps even more so than Burt Bacharach, who tends to get more of the limelight. It comes as no surprise, that Bette, who can relate to lyrics and phrasing with such a unique and gifted interpretation, would idolize this man. The show was really a treat. For those in the U.S. where the show hasn’t yet aired, be on the lookout for it. No need to pay $144. Just set the DVR.

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