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From the Vault: The Beatles Loved Harry Nilsson

This post initially appeared at The Daily Music Break. It’s been edited and expanded a bit.

It’s ironic that Harry Nilsson, a songwriter of great renown, is best associated with a number that he didn’t write. “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” was written by Fred Neil. The song, according to Wikipedia, was released by Neil in 1966 and recorded two years later by Nilsson. It wasn’t particularly successful until it made the soundtrack of “Midnight Cowboy.” It  became a hit and, arguably, the most effectively used pop song in motion picture history. It reached number two on the Billboard Contemporary Adult chart.

Nilsson was born in Brooklyn in 1941. His father abandoned the family, which bounced around and finally landed in southern California. Nilsson clearly was a unique character. The Beatles were big fans. According to the profile at his site, he had a close friendship with each. The highest profile of these was with John Lennon.

The profile also said that Nilsson jumped between genres and didn’t create a strong public profile because he never toured. A commenter at the YouTube for “Coconut” (below) wrote that he sometimes played open mics with anyone who would show up for such nights.

The sense is that Nilsson had a flippant attitude. Other artists took him seriously, however. The profile at his site says that he was recorded by Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Brian Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Three Dog Night and others. Nilsson won two Grammy Awards. Nilsson died in 1994 at the age of 52.

“Everyone’s Talkin’ ” is above. “Coconut,” which is below, is sort of halfway between a serious and a novelty song. I love the “vibe,” as some people would call it. It’s on Nilsson’s highest profile album, “Nilsson  Schmilsson.” Here it is at Amazon and iTunes. “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” was on the 1968 album “Aerial Ballet.”

Ultimate Classic Rock, Wikipedia’s entries on Nilsson and Everybody’s Talkin’ and Nilsson’s website were used to write this post. 

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.