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Harry Nilsson

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Harry Nilsson was not big on performing live, and definitely was his own man - a man who didn't conform and become a record company's lackey. A lot of rebellious artists aren't when you scratch under the surface.

The Beatles once said that Nilsson was their favourite artist, and for a performer you can pretty much die happy on that alone. He worked on projects involving John Lennon and Ringo Starr - with Lennon producing his 'Pussy Cats' album, and being enlisted by Starr to write the score for the 1974 film, 'Son Of Dracula'. Nilsson also recorded a moving version of George Harrison's 'That Is All'.

Born Harry Edward Nelson III in Brooklyn, on the 15th of June, 1941, Nilsson grew up in California, singing backing vocals, and writing for Phil Spector. His career began to take off around 1967, when The Monkees recorded his song, 'Cuddly Toy'. The legendary film director Otto Preminger heard Nilsson's first album, 'Pandemonium Shadow Show', also from '67, and asked him to write the score for the 1968 film, 'Skidoo'.

Harry's reputation both as a songwriter and singer began to grow throughout the late 1960s, and Three Dog Night recorded one of his most underrated and inventive songs, 'One', and 'Without Her' was his other classic song from around this period. 'Everybody's Talkin'', used in that fine film, 'Midnight Cowboy', was a Fred Neil song which propelled Nilsson into the mainstream.

In 1970, Nilsson recorded an acclaimed album of Randy Newman covers, and then, in 1971, came his most successful album, 'Nilsson Schmilsson'. A song from this album was to be his biggest hit. With his melodic, haunting, soaring, and very distinctive voice, the simple Ham & Evans song, 'Without You', was transformed into a song of beauty and power by Harry Nilsson, and seemed tailor made for him. 1971 was a prolific year for Nilsson, and his musical, 'The Point!', was inspired by leaves and his L.A. home, with his observing "Everything has a point." He later produced a stage version of 'The Point!'. Nilsson was a skilful songwriter, who could effortlessly combine wit and pathos (which he often did) in his songs.

Nilsson's friendship with John Lennon, saw the Beatles legend produce Harry's album 'Pussy Cats', and Nilsson did some work on Lennon's 'Rock 'n' Roll' covers album. Also, John, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon hung out with Harry, and things could get pretty wild with those four together. Nilsson's voice was never quite the same after rupturing a vocal cord working with Lennon, but Nilsson's friendship with the doomed Beatle endured, and he was a big campaigner against handguns after John was murdered.

'Knnillssonn' was Harry Nilsson's last great LP, which was climbing the charts until fellow RCA artist Elvis Presley died, and all effort was put into manufacturing Elvis records. His last most famous piece was the score for the 'Popeye' movie in 1980.

Another talent of Harry Nilsson's was his ability to give new meaning to old songs, or write in an older idiom. 'Remember Christmas' is a soaring, old-fashioned song; the standard 'Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You)' uniquely incorporated two classic standards, 'I'm Always Chasing Rainbows' and 'Always'. Other great tracks included 'All I Think About Is You' and 'Don't Forget Me'.

Harry Nilsson died of a heart attack in January, 1994, at the early age of 52, leaving a wife, Una, who he had married in 1976, and seven children from his two marriages. A talent not fully appreciated during his lifetime, but with the use of his song 'One' in a recent British TV commercial, and the everlasting greatness of 'Without You' and 'Everybody's Talkin'', there is the distinct possibility he will become more famous after his death.

- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.

Harry Nilsson Search Engine!

HARRY NILSSON CDs available from booksmusicfilmstv.com - in association with Amazon.co.uk
That's the Way It Is/Knnillssonn
~Harry Nilsson
Camden (Audio CD) - October 14, 2002
Harry Nilsson - 'Pussy Cats' Pussy Cats
~Harry Nilsson
Camden (Audio CD) - October 14, 2002
The Point
~Harry Nilsson
BMG Imports (Audio CD) - December 6, 2002
HARRY NILSSON CDs available from booksmusicfilmstv.com - in association with Amazon.com
Product photo Son of Schmilsson
Product photo A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night
Product photo Nilsson Schmilsson
Product photo Harry Nilsson - Greatest Hits

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