Someone needs to make a movie; maybe a mini-series (there is a documentary if you’re interested). It’s all here: the early years as a struggling songwriter (working the night shift at a bank while his songs were being recorded by Glen Campbell; Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Yardbirds); his big break that resulted in a major label deal with RCA; artists who championed his work (in 1968 John Lennon and Paul McCartney named Nilsson as their favorite American artist); chart success with songs he didn’t write (“Everybody’s Talkin” and “Without You”); promoting unknown composers (his 1970 album of Randy Newman songs); the inevitable disregard for commercial success (RCA considered dropping him but relented after his friend and drinking buddy John Lennon accompanied him to the negotiations); his flat in London where Mama Cass and Keith Moon died; “the retired musician phase” (1980 on); the financial debacle (his advisor left him virtually penniless); the heart attack in 1993 and his death less than a year later.
Harry Nilsson was one-of-a-kind (the cover photo of Harry in his bathrobe was taken in his kitchen by Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean fame). The album “Nilsson Schmilsson” would be certified gold, yield two top ten and one top thirty single and spend 46 weeks on the album charts. And some 42 years later, the music still impresses fans and first-time-listeners. One reviewer called the album “entertaining” (apparently Harry liked that discription), but producer Richard Perry perhaps said it best, “there’s something in the album for everyone”. Here’s a link to a stream of the entire album at YouTube.
P.S. Sony/Legacy just released “The RCA Album Collection”, a set of all 14 albums Nilsson recorded for the label, plus 3 additional discs.