Behind The Song Lyrics: Dionne Warwick’s “I Say A Little Prayer” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Written in 1966 and released the following year, “I Say A Little Prayer” was composed by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

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But it was written for the one and only Dionne Warwick.

The song, which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, has remained a classic. The lyrics are lively but also a lament.

… The moment I wake up / Before I put on my makeup / I say a little prayer for you / While combing my hair, now / And wondering what dress to wear, now, / I say a little prayer for you, Warwick sings to open the song.

In a time when war seems at our doorstep, the song is a reminder of what people who are at home during such conflicts think, say, and do when considering the idea that their loved ones are fighting abroad.

Originally, Bacharach and David couldn’t get the tempo right for the song’s recording—at least that’s what they thought. Bacharach shelved the single for months until it dropped finally in 1967. With Warwick’s tone and style shepherding the track, it became a big seller. It received a gold certification for selling over a million units, formally.

The song later returned to the pop charts after the legendary Aretha Franklin recorded a version of it and released that in 1968.

American Songwriter recently talked with Warwick about the track. and how she felt putting her “essence” to it.

AS: What do you remember about bringing the song to life?

DW: “I Say A Little Prayer,” well, it was well worth doing. It was written during the period of the Vietnam War. I believe Hal David was singing very, very seriously about our babies over there. And I must say this: it was a senseless war. And children—that’s exactly what they were, 18, 19, 20 years old babies—were over there fighting the silly war. And it was a way of saying how much we missed them, how much we loved them, how much we prayed for them and wanted them to come on home.

AS: That message resonates today, actually.

DW: Yes.

AS: What is it like to write, or put together and breathe life into a hit song?

DW: You have to ask those that write hit songs [laughs] I don’t write hit songs, I sing them. When a song has been written expressly for me, it’s a very easy thing to do. To bring my essence into what the songwriter has to say and what the musician wrote, musically. So, that’s the only way I can explain that.

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