Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another Blast From The Past

If one would like to explore an artist that evolved into such a wide range of versatility in a short amount of time, one needs only to consider the great Harry Nilsson. Using influences near and dear to him, he carved out a unique style that influenced others, both in his day and after. From singing the theme song of The Courtship Of Eddie's Father to the writing of the song One, made famous by Three Dog Night, he was an enormous talent that may have peaked fast, hard, and way too soon.

His first commercial success was a song from 1969's Midnight Cowboy. To me, much of this song sounded much like a cross between Bobby Goldboro and Glen Campbell. Here is the immortal, Everybody's Talkin:

In 1971, the rock scene was trying to shape its way out of the 60s free-form of expression into one that created a more sophisticated structure. This next tune was one example of what would become a standard bearer in 70s love songs. Here is Without You:

1972 was the year of Nilsson's peak, with three hits. The first one was on the cutting edge. Here is Jump Into the Fire:

The second one was a silly little song much like a Tutti Frutti, which made absolutely no sense at all. Parents found themselves singing this one with their kids. Here is the goofy but always delightful, Coconut:

The final commercial hit for Harry happens to be my absolute favorite. Imagine an electronic and symphonic Neil Diamond and you'll get the next song. I liked it for a couple of reasons. One, I was always fascinated by the space program and it gave me a sense of the thrill of flying fast and high. The other reason was, it was damned good song that mixed emotional lyrics and state of the art classical music with a rock melody. This one is named, Spaceman:

(After this short-lived success story came a period of too much drinking and a lot of drugs. There were even reports of both, Harry and John Lennon being thrown out of a Smothers Brothers show at the Troubadour for drunken heckling. The rest of his career was based on writing songs that were played in movies, but not on the radio, and selling the rights of those already recorded. The artist and the man flamed out way too fast, professionally and personally.)


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