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Harry Nilsson

Although he synthesized disparate elements of both rock and pop traditions, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was at heart a maverick whose allegiance belonged to neither. His initial series of albums in the late '60s made him a personal favorite of the Beatles, who found a natural affinity with his knack for catchy melodies, witty lyrics, and extraordinary vocal range. Thought of as a songwriter first and a performer second, he became a pop star himself in the late '60s and early '70s with "Everybody's Talking" and "Without You." He lost some of his original audience, however, with subsequent detours into pre-rock styles of pop, and did little recording over the last 15 years of his life.

Nilsson had been struggling to make inroads into the music business for over five years before his critically acclaimed 1967 album, Pandemonium Shadow Show. He made demos, sang commercial jingles, and shopped songs, all the while keeping his job at a Los Angeles-area bank. In the mid-'60s, he wrote a few songs with Phil Spector that were recorded by the Ronettes and the Modern Folk Quartet; occasionally he released records of his own. The Monkees recorded his "Cuddly Toy," and the Yardbirds did "Ten Little Indians" on a single in their waning days. But Nilsson didn't quit his bank job until after the release of Pandemonium Shadow Show, which gave him creative rein in the studio for the first time, and showcased his three-and-a-half-octave voice to full advantage.

The album caught the attention of the Beatles (helped, no doubt, by its ingenious medley of classic Beatle tunes, "You Can't Do That"). John Lennon and Paul McCartney named him as their favorite American singer at a press conference, an extraordinary accolade for an unknown. (Nilsson was sometimes even rumored to be joining the group.) Three Dog Night took his "One" into the Top Ten in 1969, and Nilsson's second LP, Aerial Ballet, continued the ambitious pop/rock direction of his debut, marrying his slightly eccentric, bouncy (if sometimes precious) tunes to baroque orchestral production. When one of its songs, "Everybody's Talkin'," was used as the theme for the Midnight Cowboy film, Nilsson had his first Top Ten hit. The irony was that, although Nilsson was primarily identified as a singer/songwriter, the song was actually a cover of a composition by folk-rocker Fred Neil.

But Nilsson would never be content to be pigeonholed into definite categories, as demonstrated by his two 1970 albums. One was devoted entirely to covers of songs by Randy Newman (then just emerging as a performer); another was his soundtrack to an animated children's special, The Point (including the hit "Me and My Arrow"). And it was another cover (of a Badfinger album track) that gave him his biggest single, the number one smash "Without You." Yet Nilsson didn't cash in on his stardom in a conventional manner; he never performed in concert (there were occasional television appearances), preferring to craft his artistry in the studio.

"Without You" appeared on 1971's Nilsson Schmilsson, which included a couple of other hits, the faux-tropical "Coconut" and the surprisingly gritty "Jump Into the Fire," which rates as his hardest-rocking cut. During the first half of the 1970s, he continued to broaden his range from the well-crafted, peppy, sensitive tunes that had dotted his early releases, cutting some tougher, more sour work. He lost some of his constituency, however, with 1973's A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, a collection of pre-rock pop standards with an orchestra conducted by arranger Gordon Jenkins (most noted for his work with Frank Sinatra). His affection for the music wasn't entirely surprising, as there had always been a strong Tin Pan Alley flavor to much of his writing, but it wasn't exactly in step with the times.

Much of Nilsson's notoriety stems from a period in the mid-'70s when he was a drinking buddy of John Lennon in Los Angeles (where Lennon was living during a separation from Yoko Ono). The drunken pair were thrown out of L.A.'s Troubadour club in a well-publicized incident, following which Lennon offered to produce Nilsson's next album. The timing was not opportune; Nilsson lost his voice during the sessions, rupturing one of his vocal cords, keeping it a secret out of fear that Lennon would abandon the project. Released as P**sy Cats, it was his last album to make the Top 100. During the same period, he also embarked on a project with another L.A.-based ex-Beatle, Ringo Starr, acting and writing music for the little-seen Son of Dracula film.

The upper register of Nilsson's voice, which was ultimately his greatest asset, had been permanently (though not irredeemably) damaged. After a few rather unsuccessful late-'70s album, Nilsson withdrew from the studio into family life and other business ventures, spending much of his energies campaigning for gun control after Lennon was shot in 1980. In failing health in the 1990s, diagnosed with diabetes and suffering a massive heart attack, he died in early 1994, just after finishing the vocal tracks for a new album. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Pandemonium Shadow Show / Aerial Ballet / Aerial Pandemonium Ballet


Track List: Harry / Nilsson Sings Newman

1. The Puppy Song

3. Open Your Window

4. Mother Nature's Son

5. Fairfax Rag

6. City Life

7. Mournin' Glory Story

8. Maybe

9. Marchin' Down Broadway

10. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City

11. Rainmaker

12. Mr. Bojangles

13. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear

16. Yellow Man

17. Caroline

18. Cowboy

19. The Beehive State

20. I'll Be Home

21. Living Without You

23. So Long Dad

24. Waiting

25. Snow


Track List: Flash Harry (Remastered + Expanded)

2. Cheek To Cheek

3. Best Move

4. Old Dirt Road

5. I Don't Need You

6. Rain

7. I've Got It!

8. It's So Easy

9. How Long Can Disco On

10. Bright Side Of Life

11. Old Dirt Road (Alternate Version)


Track List: P**sy Cats

1. Many Rivers To Cross

2. Subterranean Homesick Blues

3. Don't Forget Me

4. All My Life

5. Old Forgotten Soldier

6. Save The Last Dance For Me

7. Mucho Mungo / Mt. Elga

8. Loop De Loop

9. Black Sails

10. Rock Around The Clock

11. Down By The Sea

12. The Flying Saucer Song

13. Turn Out The Light

14. Save The Last Dance For Me


Track List: A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night

1. Lazy Moon

2. For Me And My Gal

3. It Had To Be You

4. Always

5. Makin' Whoopee!

6. You Made Me Love You

7. Lullaby In Ragtime

8. I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now

9. What'll I Do

10. Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You)

11. This Is All I Ask

12. As Time Goes By

13. I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

14. Make Believe

15. Trust In Me

16. It's Only A Paper Moon

17. Thanks For The Memory

18. Over The Rainbow


Track List: Son Of Schmilsson

1. Take 54

2. Remember Christmas

3. Joy

4. Turn On Your Radio

6. Spaceman

7. The Lottery Song

8. At My Front Door

9. Ambush

10. I'd Rather Be Dead

11. The Most Beautiful World In The World


Track List: Nilsson Schmilsson

1. Gotta Get Up

2. Driving Along

3. Early In The Morning

4. The Moonbeam Song

5. Down

6. Without You

7. Coconut

8. Let The Good Times Roll

9. Jump Into The Fire

10. I'll Never Leave You


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The guy was darn good!
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this guy absolutely cracks me up what a monster talent boffo
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suzette77sol e i l
I love Harry Nilsson for his beautiful voice and whenever he sings Remember I melt right back to my good memories place. It's in my head and no one goes there but me..crazy huh?
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I first heard this song as a young girl, and have always loved it. Such a beautiful love song, never fails to move me!
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tclarkrussel l
been messing with the bees
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a point in every direction Is the same as no point at all
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The Point
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@toddarsco-- t h e point for what?
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how bout the point ???
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I love this song
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Great singer.. Sounds like Air Supply
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Excellent documentary if you can find it....Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)? (2010)

Starring: Harry Nilsson, Gerry Beckley, Lee Blackman

Although he never became the kind of internationa l superstar someone with his remarkable skills should have, Harry Nilsson was arguably the most respected singer, songwriter, and record maker of the '70s, winning a pair of Grammys for his covers of Everybody's Talkin', and Without You. This documentary features archival foota
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you put the LIME in the CocoNUT ...... damit
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You Can't Do That: Almost everything I hear from this guy is really, really good. I love it. I never heard him before I added him to my Pandora, and I never knew he wrote music for movies in the 60s and 70s.
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Jump into the fire has always been my favorite!
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She's Leaving Home: Great empty nester's syndrome song. LOL!
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Jump Into The Fire: Cool song
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The Puppy Song: I love the movie You've Got Mail and this is from that movie. Nice. I think this comes from the movie Sleepless in Seattle too. Another one of my favorite movies. I'm not sure really, but I think so.
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One of the greatest songwriters. . . ever. Damn good singer too. John Lennon really admired this guy.
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Love this song.
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Visit, partied & collaborated with the quiet man in Liverpool in the Early 70s wonderful memories of a memorable, lovely guy! Will always miss him, albeit with wonderful thoughts
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allen_ladd_s c
Great song from a great movie. Dustin Hoffman and Glen Campbell, who knew.
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His lifestory is on Netflx.Amazi i n g talent;loved by millions.
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Genius. Serious, clever, comical, poignant, all of the above. Love Harry.
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Absolute perfection! I'm enamored by his music.
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I should say, I Can't think - sorry
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i can think of a more underrated artist in all of popular music - he was a genius with a beautiful voice
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the nilsson schmilsson cover pphoto story I heard went as follows... the photographer hired to take Harry Nilsson's photo for the album cover rang his doorbell and he answered the door in a bathrobe, smoking a hashpipe... the guy just whips out a camera and'click'.. . v o i l a , . . . a l b u m cover
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love this song and the young boy it reminds me of !! he is forever in my heart and forever young
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Great Song!
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this don't stop. This is so scary. Post this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come up on the screen. This is so scary because it actually works. F6
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Excellent! Pandora corrected the mistake and now give proper song writing credit to Pete Ham and Tom Evans for Without You. Great song!
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Whatever anyone else might say, he was indeed great! Nilsson Schmilsson was an absolute work of ART, displaying an incredible diversity. Lloyd Thompson.
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I don't know why Lawrence Young and Ke Ke Wyatt are credited with writing the beautiful Without You on Pandora when it was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger. It's a major error since the song was on Nilsson's 1971 album and Wyatt wasn't even born until 1982. Ham and Evans deserve the credit for such a great song.
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Coincidental l y , the big L.A. earthqu
ake of '94 hit two days after Harry died.
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hilahsvander l 0
Would have been better if they mentioned that he died not from his failing health but rather in an earthquake.
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cool guy but what's up with the creepy bathrobe pic
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Lime in the Coconut, Jump Into the Fire, Spaceman, Without You, I could go on and on, he was something else
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the point, saw it once, but still sticks with me
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didn't he do the music for animated feature The Arrow. me and my arrow,straig h t up and narrow??
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laurenmargau x
Excellent write-up on Nilsson. He is one of my favorite artists and I would have loved to have met him. This bio is exquisitely written and sympathetic to a beloved songwriter.
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Harry!! Still Fresh and New
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I really like this song! oh cool, you worked with Harry,@Sheri l y n 0 3 that's too cool :)
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I worked with Harry at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles in 1958 and 1959. He was great!!!! I love his music.
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P.S. Thank you Pandora for being such a fountain of wisdom... Have found information on singers that I would of otherwise never known.. Awesome channel...
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I had no idea that Mr. Nilsson passed away.. I have loved this song since I heard it in the 70's.. It was always my most favorite song of all time. I feel so sad that Mr. Nilsson passed. What a great talent.
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Listen to the album Nilsson Schmilsson and you will know why this guy was dubbed the American Beatle. Awesome talent.
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What I don't get about this guy... who in their right mind makes an album cover of himself in a bath robe looking like he just woke up and was like Oh, the photographer is here for the album cover? Just take a picture and be done with it.

Great voice, great music, but... rather lacking in presentation .
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