“Remembering Harry Nilsson: American Beatle, filthy drunk, and the great lost music genius of the 1970s.”


The video is available at various for-pay portals. It’s inexpensive and worth the time. Older readers may recall Harry Nilsson’s heyday in the early 1970s. If all this is well before your time, the film may yet have value as documentation of a not-so-quaint era of rock star excess.

A review of the documentary in the New York Times:

In 1968, when asked to name his favorite American rock group, John Lennon replied “Nilsson,” which was of course not a group at all but a Brooklyn-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter named Harry Nilsson.

This is an excellent long read from 2013, although the merit of watching the documentary lies in hearing the songs:

Deconstructing Harry, by Sean Fennessey (Grantland)

Remembering Harry Nilsson: American Beatle, filthy drunk, and the great lost music genius of the 1970s

… In the years before the Lost Weekend and before Pussy Cats, Nilsson established himself as a kind of pop culture Zelig, a figure who was around greatness or creating it on his own, landing in shocking good fortune only to squander it over and again. His drinking is legendary; he soaked himself with the best of rock’s worst drunks. He also possessed one of the purest voices of his generation, and was often described as the most gifted white male singer of his time. It’s hard to overstate its dramatic, breathtaking quality, and at its best, his songwriting. His is a career that feels both forgotten and deeply embedded in modern pop. He sang standards and rock and jazz and winding conceptual songs and tiny little kids’ tunes and commercial jingles. He wrote, voiced, and spearheaded an animated film starring Dustin Hoffman. He played Dracula in a movie. He soundtracked a sitcom and nearly fought Jackie Gleason in a nightclub. He was “the Beatle across the water.” He tore up London bars with Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. He invented the remix album. He also invented the mash-up.5 He dropped acid with Timothy Leary. He sang of moonbeams and fire and coconuts and puppies. He was a prodigious songwriter whose two biggest hits were covers. He made his father’s abandonment the centerpiece of his songwriting, and yet rarely acknowledged its importance publicly. He performed live in concert in his prime exactly zero times. He lobbied for a songwriter named Randy Newman and is responsible for the career of Three Dog Night. He composed scores for Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. He wrote a musical about the Wright brothers. He had no. 1 albums and pop smashes and disastrous failures. He won Grammys. He was hilarious, and such a sad man. His voice can be heard as Jon Voight gets off that bus in New York City in Midnight Cowboy. He sang “You’re breaking my heart, so fuck you” on the follow-up single to his masterpiece breakthrough. He was married three times and had seven kids. He snorted heroin and hitchhiked across America. He was a renaissance man and a get-along guy. A carouser and a crusader. He failed well and succeeded poorly. He did everything before most, and nothing in moderation. His songwriting career began about 50 years ago. It almost ended 40 years ago. He died nearly 20 years ago. But his songs — and that voice — go on and on and on.