You are on page 1of 5

(This is part of a series of blogs Ive been doing on some of the groups and on some of the

perhaps lesser-known songwriters and players behind some of rocks classic artists and songs)-
so far: Glen Campbell, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Johnny Rivers, The Rascals, Rick Nelson, Del
Shannon, Badfinger, Bob Marley, etc.)

Harry Nilsson, singer/songwriter, had quite the life; several hits and albums, and
was friends with The Beatles. He had hits with Everybodys Talking (69),
Without You (71) and Coconut (72). He also wrote One, a hit for Three Dog
He also had many ups and downs, perhaps fitting for someone whose
grandparents were circus performers and whose father left when he was two. He
got work at an early age, as a bank clerk, because he was self-trained on
computers, but wrote songs at night.
He struggled for several song writing years, until he released his first real album,
Pandemonium Side Show, in 1966. It contained a cover of The Beatles song You
Cant Do That and other re-created sounds that impressed The Beatles and they
proclaimed him as their favorite American artist, which helped raise his profile. In
1968, Nilsson released his 2
album, Ariel Ballet, with a song by Fred Neil,
Everybodys Talkin, that became a hit from the movie Midnight Cowboy with
Dustin Hoffman and John Voigt.
Nilsson worked for Phil Spector and wrote One ( is the loneliest number) for
Three Dog Night and songs for The Monkees and their film, Head, directed by Jack
Nicholson. He had another hit with I Guess the Lord Must Live in NYC, originally
written for Midnight Cowboy. In 1970, Nilsson dedicated a whole album to a little
known songwriter at the time, Randy Newman, Nilsson Sings Newman.
He next did the soundtrack to a childrens animation feature, The Point, about a
child that doesnt fit in with the song, Me and My Arrow. But in 1971, Nilsson
had a #1 with his version of Beatles-produced band, Badfingers (see my previous
article on Badfinger) classic song, Without You, on his album Nilsson Schmilsson
which also had the hits, Coconut and Jump in The Fire.
But Nilsson, despite his success, was always trying different directions, and who
rarely performed live, then turned to covers of 20s, 30s, and 40s songwriters
like Irving Berlin, with fascinating renditions of As Time Goes By and It Had to
be You, etc., with a full orchestra, on his A Touch of Schmilsson in The Night
Then in 1973, during John Lennon infamous long weekend, when separated
from Yoko, Lennon produced Nilssons Pussy Cats LP. The result is an interesting
combination of original songs and old rock covers like Rock around The Clock,
Jimmy Cliffs Many Rivers To Cross and Dylans Subterranean Homesick
Blues, with drinking buddies, Ringo and The Whos Keith Moon on drums and
Jesse Ed Davis on guitar. But When John Lennon was killed in 1980, Nilsson took
it particularly hard, and he and his song writing was never the same.
The flat Nilsson had in London, near the Beatles Apple headquarters, which he
rented out to other musicians, was also tragically the location, where both Mama
Cass Elliot in 74, and later Keith Moon in 78, died. And Nilsson found out in 1990
that his financial advisor had stolen all the money he had made from his
recordings and he only had $300 in the bank. He would die in 1994 of heart
failure and a 2-Cd retrospective of his work was released in 1995.
So Harry Nilsson, singer/songwriter, had quite the life; a close friend of The
Beatles and an eclectic writer of some great songs and albums which are highly
See Harry Nilsson do Badfingers Without You:

Harry Nilssons RETROSPECTIVE 2CD SET of his songs: and hits:
& Harry Nilssons 1974 Album PUSSYCATS, produced by John Lennon, with
Ringo, Keith Moon, Jesse Ed Davis, etc.- a combination of original songs & classic
rock n roll covers

Above: Harry Nilssons RETROSPECTIVE 2CD SET of his songs and hits

Harry Nilssons 1974 Album, PUSSYCATS, produced by John Lennon, with Ringo,
Keith Moon, Jesse Ed Davis-a combination of original songs & rock n roll covers