In 1968 the Beatles held a news conference to announce the formation of their own record label. One of the questions that came up asked John to name a favorite American group. John’s response was a complete surprise to everybody: “Nilsson.”
Harry Nilsson was born in Brooklyn but spent most of his youth in the LA area. He tried performing as part of a duo, but his first big breaks in the music industry came from songwriting. His first album was released in 1966 with little results, but other artists began covering some of his songs.
Harry’s second album was completed and released in 1967. One of the songs on the album was Cuddly Toy, which was quickly covered by the Monkees and used on their show and included on their fourth album.
None of the other songs caught much attention, and the album sold poorly, but critics and other people in the music biz loved it. Derek Taylor was the press officer for the Beatles, and he bought copies of Pandemonium Shadow Show and gave copies to the Beatles. John was impressed enough that he called Harry and they soon became friends.
Perhaps some of the attention was the result of You Can’t Do That, one of the songs on the album. While running through most of the Beatles’ song, Harry overdubbed countless background vocals with bits and pieces of 20 of the group’s songs.
Harry’s third album (Ariel Ballet) finally got him his first charted record. The first single from the album was One, which became a huge hit for Three Dog Night several years later. While he wrote all the other songs on the album, the next single (Everybody’s Talkin’) was written by Fred Neil. When the single came out in 1968 it came close to the Hot 100 but didn’t quite reach it. The song was used on the soundtrack of the film Midnight Cowboy and sales of the single exploded and the record reached #6.
The theme song to the television show The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father was recorded for Ariel Ballet but was left off the album and never got released as a single.
Several interesting albums followed (usually marked by the word “Schmilsson” in the title) as did numerous hit records.
A heart attack took Harry from us in 1993.