As great as Harry Nilsson was at song writing, he didn’t write the two hits he’s best known for, Everybody’s Talkin’ and, this week’s song, Without You.
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- Harry Edward Nilsson III is usually known simply as Nilsson.
- Born in Brooklyn in 1941, he became one of the 70s great singer-songwriters.
- Nilsson’s grandparents were circus performers. His father left his home when he was very young and he had an upbringing characterised by poverty. Because of the poor financial situation of his family, he started work as a young teen. He worked initially at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. When he theatre closed in 1960, he applied for a job at a bank, falsely claiming he was a high school graduate on his application (he only completed ninth grade). He had an aptitude for computers, however. Banks were just beginning to use computers and so good was he at his job that, even after uncovering his deception regarding being a high school graduate, the bank retained him. He worked on bank computers at night, and in the daytime pursued his song writing and singing career. By the mid-60s, he’d worked with Phil Spector and Little Richard, and had songs Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, The Shangri-Las, The Yardbirds, and others. Despite his growing success, Nilsson remained on the night shift at the bank.
- Of interest is that Nilsson achieves his significant commercial success without ever performing major public concerts or undertaking regular tours.
- Nilsson is best known for singles Everybody’s Talkin’ (1969), Without You (1971), and Coconut (1972). Only the latter was actually written by Nilsson. Nilsson also wrote Three Dog Night’s hit One (1968) and the Monkees’ hit, Cuddly Toy.
- Nilsson released 16 albums, including four soundtracks.
- Nilsson won two Grammy Awards; Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male in 1970 for Everybody’s Talkin’, from the movie Midnight Cowboy, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1973 for Without You.
- In 2015, he was ranked at #62 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
- In the 70s, Nilsson lived at Flat 12, 9 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London – an apartment he often lent to friends while he was away. During one of his absences, Cass Elliot stayed at the flat while she was performing at the London Palladium. It was in Nilsson’s apartment that Cass died on July 29, 1974.
- Just over four years later, The Who‘s drummer Keith Moon was staying in the apartment when he died.
- Both singers were aged 32. Nilsson, distraught over another friend’s death in his apartment, sold it to Pete Townshend.
without you fax
- Without You was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger and first released on their 1970 album No Dice.
- Without You has been recorded by over 180 artists – two artists having hit records with it; Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994)
- Paul McCartney once described Without You as as “the killer song of all time”.
- In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
- Hilsson’s version spent five weeks at #1 in the UK. Mariah Carey’s version was based on Nilsson’s version and topped the charts in the UK and peaked at #3 in the US.
- Without You lyrics.
without you – nilsson – 1971
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