Alfie” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK) and Dionne Warwick (US).
Although Burt Bacharach has cited “Alfie” as his personal favorite of his compositions, he and Hal David had not been very interested when approached by Ed Wolpin, who headed the composers’ publishers Famous Music, to write a song to serve as a promotional tie-in with the upcoming film Alfie (a release from Paramount Pictures who owned Famous Music). Hal David would attribute the composers’ lack of interest to the title character’s name being pedestrian: “Writing a song about a man called ‘Alfie’ didn’t seem too exciting at the time.”
The composers agreed to submit an “Alfie” song if they were able to write a worthy candidate so named within a three-week period. When Bacharach, resident in California, was shown a rough cut of the film Alfie the quality of the film’s depiction of a Cockneywomanizer played by Michael Caineinstilled in Bacharach a determination to writing a complementary song. Bacharach felt – in his own words – “with ‘Alfie’ the lyric had to come first because it had to say what that movie was all about”. He arranged for David – in Long Island – to receive a script of the film to facilitate writing the lyrics for an “Alfie” song. David utilized one of Michael Caine’s lines in the film, “What’s it all about?” as the opening phrase for the song’s lyrics. When completed these were set to music by Bacharach. The original was recorded in the key of F-sharp major, but Bacharach usually plays it in the key of B-flat major live, the same key in which Cilla Black sang it.