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Harry Nilsson

Harry Edward Nilsson III (June 15, 1941 - January 15, 1994) was an American songwriter, singer, pianist and guitarist, most popular during the 1960s and 1970s. For most of his recordings, he did not use his first name, and was credited only as Nilsson. Despite some spectacular successes, including two Grammy Awards, Nilsson's tendency to make broad stylistic jumps from one record to the next and his iconoclastic decisions kept him from capitalizing on those successes. His most well-known recordings are "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin'".

Biography

Early years

Nilsson was born in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York in 1941. His father, Harry Edward Nilsson, Jr., abandoned the family three years later. An autobiographical reference to this is found in the opening to Nilsson's song "1941":

Now, in 1941, a happy father had a son
But in 1944, the father walked right out the door

Harry grew up with his mother Bette Nilsson and his younger half-sister, periodically moving to California or back to New York, and living with a procession of relatives and stepfathers. One relative who turned out to be an important influence on him was his Uncle John, a mechanic in San Bernadino, California, who taught him to sing properly.

Due to the poor financial situation of his family, Nilsson worked from an early age, including a job at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles. When the Paramount closed (circa 1960), Nilsson applied for a job at a bank, falsely stating he was a high school graduate on his application. (He only made it through 9th grade.) He turned out to have an aptitude for computers, which were just starting to be employed by banks at the time. He did so well, in fact, that the bank kept him on even after discovering the lie about his education.

Musical beginnings

As early as 1958, Nilsson was hooked on the new wave of music, especially rhythm and blues artists like Ray Charles. He had taken early stabs at performing while he was working at the Paramount, forming a vocal duo with his friend Jerry Smith and singing close harmonies in the style of the Everly Brothers.

His job with the bank was on the night shift, so Nilsson spent his days infiltrating Los Angeles music business offices, making friends and developing connections. Uncle John's singing lessons, along with Nilsson's natural talent, surely helped when he got a job singing demos for songwriter Scott Turner in 1960. Turner paid Nilsson five dollars for each track they recorded. (Years later, when Nilsson became famous, Turner decided to release these early recordings, and contacted Nilsson to work out a fair payment. Nilsson replied that he had already been paid -- five dollars a track.)

In 1963, Nilsson began to have some early success as a songwriter, working with John Marascalco on a song for Little Richard. (Little Richard, upon hearing Nilsson sing, reportedly remarked, "My! You sing good for a white boy!") Marascalco also financed some independent singles by Nilsson. One, "Baa Baa Blackseep", was released under the pseudonym Bo Pete to some small local airplay. Another recording, "Donna, I Understand", convinced Mercury Records to offer Nilsson a contract, and release recordings by him under the name Johnny Niles.

In 1964, Nilsson worked with Phil Spector, writing three songs with him. He also established a relationship with songwriter and publisher Perry Botkin, Jr., who began to find a market for Nilsson's songs. His recording contract was picked up by Tower Records, who did nothing with it, but his songs were now being recorded by Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, The Yardbirds, and many other artists. (Despite this growing success, Nilsson was still working the night shift at the bank.)

Signing with RCA Victor

Nilsson signed with RCA Victor in 1967 and released an album, Pandemonium Shadow Show, which was a critical (if not commercial) success. Music industry insiders were impressed both with the songwriting, and with Nilsson's pure-toned, multi-octave vocals. One such insider was Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, who bought an entire box of copies of the album to share this new sound with others. With a major-label release, and continued songwriting success (The Monkees had a hit with Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy"), Nilsson finally felt secure enough in the music business to quit his job with the bank.

Some of the albums from Derek Taylor's box eventually ended up with the Beatles themselves, who quickly became Nilsson fans. This may have been helped by the track "You Can't Do That", in which Nilsson covered one Beatles song but added 22 others in the multi-tracked background vocals. When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, John was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, "Nilsson". Paul was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, "Nilsson".

Pandemonium Shadow Show was followed in 1968 by Aerial Ballet, an album that included Nilsson's rendition of Fred Neil's song "Everybody's Talkin'". A minor hit at the time of release, the song would become extremely popular a year later when it was featured in the film Midnight Cowboy, and would earn Nilsson his first Grammy Award. Aerial Ballet also contained Nilsson's version of his own composition, "One", which was later taken to the top of the charts by Three Dog Night. Nilsson was also commissioned at this time to write and perform the theme song for the ABC television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. The result, "Best Friend", was very popular, but Nilsson never released the song on record.

Chart success

Nilsson's next album, Harry (1969), was his first to hit the charts, and also provided a Top 40 single with "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City". While the album still presented Nilsson as primarily a songwriter, his astute choice of cover material included, this time, a song by a little-known composer named Randy Newman. Nilsson was so impressed with Newman's talent that he devoted his entire next album to Newman compositions, with Newman himself playing piano behind Nilsson's multi-tracked vocals. The resuit, Nilsson Sings Newman (1970), was commercially disappointing but was named Record of the Year by Stereo Review magazine, and provided momemtum to Newman's career.

Nilsson's next project was an animated film, The Point!, created with animation director Fred Wolf, and broadcast on ABC television in 1971. Nilsson's album of songs from The Point! was well-received, and spawned a hit single, "Me and My Arrow". Later that year, Nilsson went to England with producer Richard Perry to record what became the most successful album of his career. Nilsson Schmilsson yielded three hit singles that could not be more stylistically different from each other. The first was a cover of Badfinger's song, "Without You", featuring a highly emotional arrangement and soaring vocals to match, a performance that was rewarded with Nilsson's second Grammy Award. The second single was "Coconut", a novelty calypso number. The third, "Jump Into the Fire", was raucous, screaming rock and roll, including a drum solo by Derek and the Dominos' Jim Gordon and a bass detuning by Herbie Flowers.

Nilsson followed quickly with Son of Schmilsson (1972), released while its predecessor was still on the charts. Besides the problem of competing with himself, Nilsson's decision to give free rein to his bawdiness and bluntness on this release alienated some of his earlier, more conservative fan base. With lyrics like "I sang my balls off for you, baby", "Roll the world over / And give her a kiss and a feel", and the notorious "You're breaking my heart / You're tearing it apart / So f--k you", Nilsson had travelled far afield from his earlier work. Still, the album did well, and the single "Spaceman" was a Top 40 hit.

The maverick

This disregard for commercialism in favor of artistic satisfaction showed itself in Nilsson's next release, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973). Performing a selection of pop standards by the likes of Irving Berlin and Kalmar & Ruby, Nilsson sang in front of an orchestra arranged and conducted by veteran Gordon Jenkins in sessions produced by his constant supporter Derek Taylor. While in hindsight, the sessions showcased an extremely talented singer in one of his best performances, this was not the sort of thing that was going to burn up the charts in the 1970s. The session was filmed, and was broadcast as a television special by the BBC in the UK. (Nilsson fans still await this film's release in some home video format.)

1974 found Nilsson back in California, and when John Lennon moved there during his separation from Yoko Ono, the two musicians rekindled their earlier friendship. Lennon was intent upon producing Nilsson's next album, much to Nilsson's delight. However, their time together in California became known much more for heavy drinking and drug use than it did for musical collaboration. In a widely publicized incident, they were ejected from the Troubadour in West Hollywood for drunken heckling of the Smothers Brothers. To make matters worse, Nilsson ruptured a vocal cord during the sessions for this album, but hid the fact due to fear that Lennon would call a halt to the production. The resulting album, Pussy Cats, was a shock for listeners who knew Nilsson as one of the best singers of his generation.

Nilsson's voice had mostly recovered by his next release, Duit on Mon Dei (1975), but neither it nor its follow-ups, Sandman and ...That's the Way It Is (both 1976) met with chart success. Finally, Nilsson recorded what he later considered to be his favorite album, 1977's Knnillssonn. With his voice strong again, and his songs exploring musical territory reminiscent of Harry or The Point!, Nilsson had every right to expect Knnillssonn to be a comeback album. RCA Victor seemed to agree, and promised Nilsson a substantial marketing campaign for the album. However, the death of Elvis Presley caused RCA Victor to ignore everything except meeting demand for Presley's back catalog, and the promised marketing push never happened. This, combined with RCA Victor releasing a Nilsson Greatest Hits collection without consulting him, prompted Nilsson to leave the label.

Winding down

Nilsson's musical work after leaving RCA Victor was sporadic. He wrote a musical play, Zapata, with Perry Botkin, Jr., which got as far as being performed in Connecticut but never moved to Broadway. He wrote all the songs for Robert Altman's movie-musical Popeye (1980), and recorded one more album, Flash Harry, which was released in the UK but not in the USA. However, Nilsson increasingly began referring to himself as as a "retired musician".

Nilsson was profoundly affected by the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. He joined the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence and begain making public appearances solely to raise money for their cause.

Nilsson found himself in a dire financial situation when his trusted financial adviser embezzled all the money he had ever made as a recording artist. His health was also deteriorating, and in 1993, he suffered a massive heart attack. After surviving that, he began pressing his old label, RCA Victor, to release a boxed-set retrospective of his career, and also started recording again, attempting to complete one final album. He completed the vocal tracks for the album on 15 January 1994, and then died that night of heart failure. A little over a month later, the 2-CD anthology he worked on with RCA Victor, Personal Best, was released.

As of 2005, Nilsson's final album, tentatively titled Papa's Got a Brown New Robe, has never been released.

Discography

  • Spotlight on Nilsson (1966)
  • Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967)
  • Aerial Ballet (1968)
  • Skidoo (soundtrack) (1968)
  • Harry (1969)
  • Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)
  • The Point! (1971)
  • Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971)
  • Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
  • Son of Schmilsson (1972)
  • A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973)
  • Son of Dracula (1974)
  • Pussy Cats (1974)
  • Duit on Mon Dei (1975)
  • Sandman (1976)
  • ...That's the Way It Is (1976)
  • Knnillssonn (1977)
  • Flash Harry (1980) (not released in USA)

Film and television

  • Skidoo (1968) songs written and performed, soundtrack music composer, actor (bit role)
  • The Courtship of Eddie's Father (TV series, 1969-1972) theme song written and performed, incidental music
  • Midnight Cowboy (1969) new version of "Everybody's Talkin'" performed
  • Jenny (1970) song "Waiting" written and performed
  • The Point! (1971) story, all songs written and performed
  • Son of Dracula (1974) actor (lead role), all songs performed
  • The World's Greatest Lover (1978) song "Ain't It Kinda Wonderful" performed
  • In God We Trust (1980) new version of "Good For God" performed
  • Popeye (1980) all songs written
  • Handgun (1983) song "Lay Down Your Arms" written and performed
  • First Impressions (TV series, 1988) theme song co-written, performed
  • Camp Candy (TV series, animated, 1989-1991) theme song written, and performed with John Candy
  • The Fisher King (1991) song "How About You" performed
  • Me, Myself and I (1992) song "Me, Myself and I" written and performed

Use of Nilsson recordings in films

  • Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971) - "Don't Leave Me"
  • La Mortadella (1971) - "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City"
  • All That Jazz (1979) - "Perfect Day"
  • Real Life (1979) - "Jump Into the Fire"
  • Goodfellas (1990) - "Jump Into the Fire"
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992) - "Coconut"
  • Caroline (animated short, 1993) - "Caroline"
  • Private School for Girls (1993) - "You're Breakin' My Heart"
  • Forrest Gump (1994) - "Everybody's Talkin'"
  • Casino (1995) - "Without You"
  • Angel on My Shoulder (1997)
  • Ellen Foster (1997) - "Remember"
  • The Ice Storm (1997) - "Coconut"
  • Practical Magic (1998) - "Coconut"
  • You've Got Mail (1998) - "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City", "Remember", "The Puppy Song", "Over The Rainbow"
  • High Fidelity (2000) - "The Moonbeam Song"
  • Bridget Jones' Diary (2001) - "Without You"
  • Riding in Cars with Boys (2001) - "Everything's Got 'Em", "Me and My Arrow"
  • Punch-Drunk Love (2002) - "He Needs Me" (Shelley Duvall's version from Popeye)
  • The Rules of Attraction (2002) - "Without You"
  • Shanghai Knights (2003) - "One"
  • Around the Bend (2004) - "Daddy's Song"
  • The Girl Next Door (2004) - "Jump Into the Fire"

Sources

  • Dawn Eden, One Last Touch of Nilsson (Goldmine magazine, April 29, 1994)

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As of 2005, Nilsson's final album, tentatively titled Papa's Got a Brown New Robe, has never been released. The entire edition size has now sold out. A little over a month later, the 2-CD anthology he worked on with RCA Victor, Personal Best, was released. Many of the reunion shows, including that April 13 show in Minneapolis, were sold by DiscLive (http://pixies.disclive.com/) in sets of 1,000. He completed the vocal tracks for the album on 15 January 1994, and then died that night of heart failure. A "new retrospective compilation CD" is set for release in the near future. After surviving that, he began pressing his old label, RCA Victor, to release a boxed-set retrospective of his career, and also started recording again, attempting to complete one final album. In spring 2004, 4AD released Wave of Mutilation: The Best of the Pixies and a companion DVD which features a full concert, the music videos, and a documentary on the Pixies.

His health was also deteriorating, and in 1993, he suffered a massive heart attack. This was followed by a three-month world tour and four-month return to the US, ending on December 18 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City (see tour dates (http://www.pixiesmusic.com/live_04.php) for detailed information). Nilsson found himself in a dire financial situation when his trusted financial adviser embezzled all the money he had ever made as a recording artist. It is rumoured that these dates hold the world record for fastest selling shows ever. He joined the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence and begain making public appearances solely to raise money for their cause. Tickets for shows on this tour often sold out minutes after going on sale despite some rather moderately sized Canadian cities such as Winnipeg and Regina being stops. Nilsson was profoundly affected by the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. It wasn't until 2004 when the Pixies would play their first "post-breakup" concert on April 13 at The Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota and a 15 concert warmup tour of the western United States and Canada, culminating in the performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

However, Nilsson increasingly began referring to himself as as a "retired musician". Roughly once a year on April Fool's Day someone would be led to believe that the band had re-united. He wrote all the songs for Robert Altman's movie-musical Popeye (1980), and recorded one more album, Flash Harry, which was released in the UK but not in the USA. In the 11 years since the band broke up, there were a number of rumors that would circulate regarding reunion tours. He wrote a musical play, Zapata, with Perry Botkin, Jr., which got as far as being performed in Connecticut but never moved to Broadway. This revitalized some interest in the band after they were gone. Nilsson's musical work after leaving RCA Victor was sporadic. There are substantial parallels between the two groups' sounds and Kurt Cobain was known to have been a fan—in fact, in a Rolling Stone interview he claimed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his attempt to write a Pixies song.

This, combined with RCA Victor releasing a Nilsson Greatest Hits collection without consulting him, prompted Nilsson to leave the label. Right at the moment they were imploding, Nirvana was recording Nevermind, the album that would break alternative rock into the mainstream. However, the death of Elvis Presley caused RCA Victor to ignore everything except meeting demand for Presley's back catalog, and the promised marketing push never happened. Musically, the Pixies were just slightly ahead of their time. RCA Victor seemed to agree, and promised Nilsson a substantial marketing campaign for the album. Santiago has appeared on Frank Black's solo albums, writes music for FOX television, and has a band called The Martinis with his wife, Linda Mallari. With his voice strong again, and his songs exploring musical territory reminiscent of Harry or The Point!, Nilsson had every right to expect Knnillssonn to be a comeback album. Lovering dropped back into obscurity, making occasional appearances as a "scientific phenomenalist", performing experiments on stage; he also drummed on one of Tanya Donelly's solo albums.

Finally, Nilsson recorded what he later considered to be his favorite album, 1977's Knnillssonn. Kim Deal has also recorded with The Amps. Nilsson's voice had mostly recovered by his next release, Duit on Mon Dei (1975), but neither it nor its follow-ups, Sandman and ...That's the Way It Is (both 1976) met with chart success. The album, Title TK, finally appeared in 2002, with only Kim and Kelley remaining from the previous Breeders lineup. The resulting album, Pussy Cats, was a shock for listeners who knew Nilsson as one of the best singers of his generation. However, for several years they struggled to produce another album, mainly due to Kelley Deal's struggles with heroin. To make matters worse, Nilsson ruptured a vocal cord during the sessions for this album, but hid the fact due to fear that Lennon would call a halt to the production. Deal returned to the Breeders, and scored a hit with "Cannonball" from that group's Last Splash in 1993.

In a widely publicized incident, they were ejected from the Troubadour in West Hollywood for drunken heckling of the Smothers Brothers. He then went on to form a band with Scott Boutier, Eric Drew, Rich Gilbert, David McGaffrey, and Dave Phillips called Frank Black and the Catholics. However, their time together in California became known much more for heavy drinking and drug use than it did for musical collaboration. Black Francis renamed himself Frank Black, and released several solo albums. Lennon was intent upon producing Nilsson's next album, much to Nilsson's delight. Without telling anyone, Black Francis ended the band, and it wasn't until a year later that he faxed an official notice to the other members. 1974 found Nilsson back in California, and when John Lennon moved there during his separation from Yoko Ono, the two musicians rekindled their earlier friendship. Trompe le Monde still featured little input from Deal and wasn't as critically regarded as their first few albums.

(Nilsson fans still await this film's release in some home video format.). Break-up announcements notwithstanding, one more album was to follow. The session was filmed, and was broadcast as a television special by the BBC in the UK. The Pixies were at the height of their popularity, however, and while headlining at the Reading Festival in 1991, they played a highly enthusiastic version of "Debaser" which has become legendary among fans. While in hindsight, the sessions showcased an extremely talented singer in one of his best performances, this was not the sort of thing that was going to burn up the charts in the 1970s. Deal was not pleased, and unilaterally announced an apparent break-up of the band on-stage during the following tour. Performing a selection of pop standards by the likes of Irving Berlin and Kalmar & Ruby, Nilsson sang in front of an orchestra arranged and conducted by veteran Gordon Jenkins in sessions produced by his constant supporter Derek Taylor. During this time, Black Francis limited Deal's contributions to the band; the first two albums had been partly written by Deal, but when Bossanova was released in 1990, all songs were by him.

This disregard for commercialism in favor of artistic satisfaction showed itself in Nilsson's next release, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973). After Doolittle, Black Francis temporarily went solo, while Kim Deal formed The Breeders with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and Deal's sister, Kelley. Still, the album did well, and the single "Spaceman" was a Top 40 hit. Their sophomore album, Doolittle, featured three prominent singles: "Debaser," "Here Comes Your Man," and "Monkey Gone to Heaven." It was a top 10 hit in the UK and reached the top 100 in North America. With lyrics like "I sang my balls off for you, baby", "Roll the world over / And give her a kiss and a feel", and the notorious "You're breaking my heart / You're tearing it apart / So f--k you", Nilsson had travelled far afield from his earlier work. For the remainder of their career, the Pixies remained large-scale stars in Britain and cult figures in the US. Besides the problem of competing with himself, Nilsson's decision to give free rein to his bawdiness and bluntness on this release alienated some of his earlier, more conservative fan base. The band remained unsigned in the US for a while, but after a foray up the UK pop charts and some inroads into American college rock stations, they were picked up by Elektra Records.

Nilsson followed quickly with Son of Schmilsson (1972), released while its predecessor was still on the charts. 4AD was a British music label, and the notoriously rabid British music press immediately clutched the Pixies to their collective bosoms and refused to let go. The third, "Jump Into the Fire", was raucous, screaming rock and roll, including a drum solo by Derek and the Dominos' Jim Gordon and a bass detuning by Herbie Flowers. It was followed by their first full-length album, Surfer Rosa in early 1988. The second single was "Coconut", a novelty calypso number. Eight tracks from the demo were selected for the Come on Pilgrim EP, the band's first release. The first was a cover of Badfinger's song, "Without You", featuring a highly emotional arrangement and soaring vocals to match, a performance that was rewarded with Nilsson's second Grammy Award. The demo fell into the hands of Ivo Watts-Russell, owner of 4AD, who signed the band.

Nilsson Schmilsson yielded three hit singles that could not be more stylistically different from each other. Smith became the band's manager and produced a 17 track demo (known as the "Purple Tape", publicly released in 2002). Later that year, Nilsson went to England with producer Richard Perry to record what became the most successful album of his career. During a concert with Throwing Muses, the band was noticed by Gary Smith, a producer at Fort Apache Studios. Nilsson's album of songs from The Point! was well-received, and spawned a hit single, "Me and My Arrow". They arrived at a name ("Pixies") by selecting an entry from the dictionary at random, and began playing shows in the Boston area. Nilsson's next project was an animated film, The Point!, created with animation director Fred Wolf, and broadcast on ABC television in 1971. Reportedly, the ad asked for a bass player who liked The Mamas and the Papas and Husker Du.

The resuit, Nilsson Sings Newman (1970), was commercially disappointing but was named Record of the Year by Stereo Review magazine, and provided momemtum to Newman's career. Bassist Kim Deal joined the band after she responded to a classified ad Black Francis had placed which requested an unusual combination of musical influences. Nilsson was so impressed with Newman's talent that he devoted his entire next album to Newman compositions, with Newman himself playing piano behind Nilsson's multi-tracked vocals. The band was formed in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts by Joey Santiago and Black Francis (born Charles Thompson IV). While the album still presented Nilsson as primarily a songwriter, his astute choice of cover material included, this time, a song by a little-known composer named Randy Newman. Most notable was their use of soft verses and hard choruses, which was later popularized by Nirvana. Nilsson's next album, Harry (1969), was his first to hit the charts, and also provided a Top 40 single with "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City". Their style of music influenced many aspects of alternative rock throughout the 1990s.

The result, "Best Friend", was very popular, but Nilsson never released the song on record. Frank Black (vocals, guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), Kim Deal (bass, vocals), and David Lovering (drums). Nilsson was also commissioned at this time to write and perform the theme song for the ABC television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. The band's lineup consists of Black Francis a.k.a. Aerial Ballet also contained Nilsson's version of his own composition, "One", which was later taken to the top of the charts by Three Dog Night. The Pixies are a band which toured and recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then reunited in 2004 and began touring again. A minor hit at the time of release, the song would become extremely popular a year later when it was featured in the film Midnight Cowboy, and would earn Nilsson his first Grammy Award. Download sample of "Holiday Song" from Come on Pilgrim.

Pandemonium Shadow Show was followed in 1968 by Aerial Ballet, an album that included Nilsson's rendition of Fred Neil's song "Everybody's Talkin'". He replied, "Nilsson". Paul was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, "Nilsson".

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, John was asked to name his favorite American artist. Some of the albums from Derek Taylor's box eventually ended up with the Beatles themselves, who quickly became Nilsson fans. This may have been helped by the track "You Can't Do That", in which Nilsson covered one Beatles song but added 22 others in the multi-tracked background vocals. With a major-label release, and continued songwriting success (The Monkees had a hit with Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy"), Nilsson finally felt secure enough in the music business to quit his job with the bank. One such insider was Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, who bought an entire box of copies of the album to share this new sound with others.

Music industry insiders were impressed both with the songwriting, and with Nilsson's pure-toned, multi-octave vocals. Nilsson signed with RCA Victor in 1967 and released an album, Pandemonium Shadow Show, which was a critical (if not commercial) success. (Despite this growing success, Nilsson was still working the night shift at the bank.). His recording contract was picked up by Tower Records, who did nothing with it, but his songs were now being recorded by Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, The Yardbirds, and many other artists.

He also established a relationship with songwriter and publisher Perry Botkin, Jr., who began to find a market for Nilsson's songs. In 1964, Nilsson worked with Phil Spector, writing three songs with him. Another recording, "Donna, I Understand", convinced Mercury Records to offer Nilsson a contract, and release recordings by him under the name Johnny Niles. One, "Baa Baa Blackseep", was released under the pseudonym Bo Pete to some small local airplay.

(Little Richard, upon hearing Nilsson sing, reportedly remarked, "My! You sing good for a white boy!") Marascalco also financed some independent singles by Nilsson. In 1963, Nilsson began to have some early success as a songwriter, working with John Marascalco on a song for Little Richard. Nilsson replied that he had already been paid -- five dollars a track.). (Years later, when Nilsson became famous, Turner decided to release these early recordings, and contacted Nilsson to work out a fair payment.

Turner paid Nilsson five dollars for each track they recorded. Uncle John's singing lessons, along with Nilsson's natural talent, surely helped when he got a job singing demos for songwriter Scott Turner in 1960. His job with the bank was on the night shift, so Nilsson spent his days infiltrating Los Angeles music business offices, making friends and developing connections. He had taken early stabs at performing while he was working at the Paramount, forming a vocal duo with his friend Jerry Smith and singing close harmonies in the style of the Everly Brothers.

As early as 1958, Nilsson was hooked on the new wave of music, especially rhythm and blues artists like Ray Charles. He did so well, in fact, that the bank kept him on even after discovering the lie about his education. (He only made it through 9th grade.) He turned out to have an aptitude for computers, which were just starting to be employed by banks at the time. When the Paramount closed (circa 1960), Nilsson applied for a job at a bank, falsely stating he was a high school graduate on his application.

Due to the poor financial situation of his family, Nilsson worked from an early age, including a job at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles. One relative who turned out to be an important influence on him was his Uncle John, a mechanic in San Bernadino, California, who taught him to sing properly. Harry grew up with his mother Bette Nilsson and his younger half-sister, periodically moving to California or back to New York, and living with a procession of relatives and stepfathers. An autobiographical reference to this is found in the opening to Nilsson's song "1941":.

His father, Harry Edward Nilsson, Jr., abandoned the family three years later. Nilsson was born in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York in 1941. His most well-known recordings are "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin'". Despite some spectacular successes, including two Grammy Awards, Nilsson's tendency to make broad stylistic jumps from one record to the next and his iconoclastic decisions kept him from capitalizing on those successes.

For most of his recordings, he did not use his first name, and was credited only as Nilsson. Harry Edward Nilsson III (June 15, 1941 - January 15, 1994) was an American songwriter, singer, pianist and guitarist, most popular during the 1960s and 1970s. Dawn Eden, One Last Touch of Nilsson (Goldmine magazine, April 29, 1994). The Girl Next Door (2004) - "Jump Into the Fire".

Around the Bend (2004) - "Daddy's Song". Shanghai Knights (2003) - "One". The Rules of Attraction (2002) - "Without You". Punch-Drunk Love (2002) - "He Needs Me" (Shelley Duvall's version from Popeye).

Riding in Cars with Boys (2001) - "Everything's Got 'Em", "Me and My Arrow". Bridget Jones' Diary (2001) - "Without You". High Fidelity (2000) - "The Moonbeam Song". You've Got Mail (1998) - "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City", "Remember", "The Puppy Song", "Over The Rainbow".

Practical Magic (1998) - "Coconut". The Ice Storm (1997) - "Coconut". Ellen Foster (1997) - "Remember". Angel on My Shoulder (1997).

Casino (1995) - "Without You". Forrest Gump (1994) - "Everybody's Talkin'". Private School for Girls (1993) - "You're Breakin' My Heart". Caroline (animated short, 1993) - "Caroline".

Reservoir Dogs (1992) - "Coconut". Goodfellas (1990) - "Jump Into the Fire". Real Life (1979) - "Jump Into the Fire". All That Jazz (1979) - "Perfect Day".

La Mortadella (1971) - "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City". Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971) - "Don't Leave Me". Me, Myself and I (1992) song "Me, Myself and I" written and performed. The Fisher King (1991) song "How About You" performed.

Camp Candy (TV series, animated, 1989-1991) theme song written, and performed with John Candy. First Impressions (TV series, 1988) theme song co-written, performed. Handgun (1983) song "Lay Down Your Arms" written and performed. Popeye (1980) all songs written.

In God We Trust (1980) new version of "Good For God" performed. The World's Greatest Lover (1978) song "Ain't It Kinda Wonderful" performed. Son of Dracula (1974) actor (lead role), all songs performed. The Point! (1971) story, all songs written and performed.

Jenny (1970) song "Waiting" written and performed. Midnight Cowboy (1969) new version of "Everybody's Talkin'" performed. The Courtship of Eddie's Father (TV series, 1969-1972) theme song written and performed, incidental music. Skidoo (1968) songs written and performed, soundtrack music composer, actor (bit role).

Flash Harry (1980) (not released in USA). Knnillssonn (1977). ...That's the Way It Is (1976). Sandman (1976).

Duit on Mon Dei (1975). Pussy Cats (1974). Son of Dracula (1974). A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973).

Son of Schmilsson (1972). Nilsson Schmilsson (1971). Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971). The Point! (1971).

Nilsson Sings Newman (1970). Harry (1969). Skidoo (soundtrack) (1968). Aerial Ballet (1968).

Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967). Spotlight on Nilsson (1966).

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