Obituary: Mack David
Wednesday 19 January 1994
'DURING my New York boyhood, Mack was here to learn from,' the lyricist Hal David said of his elder brother Mack. Unlike the better known Hal, Mack David never won an Oscar, although he was nominated for the Best Song statuette eight times. He wrote or co-wrote 'A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes', 'Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White', 'The Call of the Faraway Hills' (the theme from Shane), 'My Own True Love' (based on 'Tara's Theme' from Gone with the Wind), 'I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine' and 'The Un-Birthday Song' from Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951). His collaborators included Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach Elmer Bernstein - even Tchaikovsky.
Mack David originally wanted to be a lawyer, and studied at St John's Law School but, like Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael and Arthur Schwartz before him, forsook law for music.
He had his first big song hit in 1939, when he joined forces with Andre Kostelanetz and (perhaps to confuse the record books) Mack Davis to adapt the slow theme of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony into the much-recorded 'Moon Love'. Without Davis, David and Kostelanetz turned again to Tchaikovsky the following year, deriving 'On the Isle of May' from his String Quartet in D Major. The 1940s saw such Mack David hits as 'Sweet Eloise' (1942) 'Candy' (1944), 'I'm Just a Lucky So and So' (written with Duke Ellington in 1946) and the nonsense lullaby 'Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba' (1947).
David received his first Oscar nomination for 'Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo', which he, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston wrote for Disney's Cinderella (1950). David was also nominated for the title-songs from The Hanging Tree (1959), Bachelor in Paradise (1961), Walk on the Wild Side (1962), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), and for 'The Ballad of Cat Ballou' (1965) and 'My Wishing Doll' from Hawaii (1966). He wrote title-songs for 77 Sunset Strip and Caspar the Friendly Ghost on television and the English lyrics for 'Lili Marlene', and 'La Vie en Rose'. Barbara Mandrell recorded his 'To Me' (1983) and 'Happy Birthday, Dear Heartache' (1984), both of which reached the Top 10 Country chart.
David's most remunerative song was 'Sunflower' (1948), for which he wrote both words and music. it was recorded by the Russ Morgan band, Frank Sinatra and others, and was selected as the state song of Kansas. In 1964 he sued his fellow composer Jerry Herman, claiming that the main four-bar theme of Herman's song 'Hello, Dolly' was the same as that of 'Sunflower'. David received a reputed out-of-court settlement of dollars 250,000.
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