I’ve been totally obsessed of late with singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. “Harry who?” you ask. Harry Nilsson.
Harry was a big singer-songwriter of the late 60s and early 70s who should be remembered far more than he is today but his penchant for self-destruction, refusal to do live performance, and perhaps just the whims of history have deposited him into relative obscurity.
The big songs everyone nod their heads to and go “Oh right, him.” are:
- Everybody’s Talking (theme to Midnight Cowboy)
- The Coconut Song (“You put the lime in the coconut…”)
- Without You (“I can’t live, if living is without you…”)
- One (“One is the loneliest number”)
For many artists their hits represent their best music. The rest of their catalog is often dull if not downright embarrassing. For Harry Nilsson I find this is exactly reversed. While his hits are good, it’s often his non-hits that are great. For my money I’d say his best work was his second album, Aerial Ballet. Just about every track is excellent and it highlights his whimsical, bittersweet songwriting and gorgeous voice better than any of his efforts before or after.
And speaking of his voice, it’s an unusual one. He sings mostly in a baritone range but with such lightness of tone he sounds very tenor-y. Marc Bolan of T-Rex fame had a similar quality.