-----... he died on January 15, 1994.
Known simply as "Nilsson" on all but his earliest recordings, he won Grammys for two of his recordings; best male contemporary vocal in 1969 for "Everybody's Talkin'," the theme song to the Academy Award-winning movie Midnight Cowboy, and best male pop vocal in 1972 for "Without You."
In the late 1950s, Nilsson was drawn to pop music. A friend gave Nilsson a plastic ukulele, which he learned to play, and later learned to play the guitar and piano. In the 2010 documentary Who is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him), Nilsson recalled that when he could not remember lyrics or parts of the melodies to popular songs, he created his own, which led to writing original songs.
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-----In 1964, Harry wrote songs with Phil Spector. He also established a relationship with songwriter and publisher Perry Botkin, Jr., who began to find a market for Nilsson's songs.
Nilsson's recording contract was picked up by Tower Records, which in 1966 released the first singles actually credited to him by name, as well as the debut album Spotlight on Nilsson. None of Nilsson's Tower releases drew much attention, but his songs were being recorded by Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, The Shangri-Las, The Yardbirds, and others.
Nilsson signed with RCA Victor in 1966 and released an album the following year, Pandemonium Shadow Show, which received positive reviews. Critics were impressed with his songwriting and multi-octave vocals.
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, John was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, "Nilsson." Paul was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, "Nilsson."
Aerial Ballet also contained Nilsson's version of his own composition, "One," which was later made it to the top 5 of the U.S. charts by Three Dog Night. Nilsson was also commissioned at this time to write and perform the theme song for the ABC television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. The song, "Best Friend," was very popular, but Nilsson never released the song on record; an alternative version, "Girlfriend," did appear on the 1995 Personal Best anthology.
Nilsson's 1969 album, Harry, was his first to hit the charts, and also provided a Top 40 single with "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City." The album also included, this time, a song by a then-little-known composer named Randy Newman, "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear."
Nilsson was so impressed with Newman's talent that he devoted his entire next album to Newman compositions, with Newman himself playing piano behind Nilsson's multi-tracked vocals. The result, Nilsson Sings Newman was commercially disappointing but was named Record of the Year by Stereo Review magazine and provided momentum to Newman's career.
Later that year, Nilsson went to England with producer Richard Perry to record what became the most successful album of his career. Nilsson Schmilsson yielded three very stylistically different hit singles. The first was a cover of Badfinger's song "Without You," featuring a highly emotional arrangement and soaring vocals to match, a performance that was rewarded with Nilsson's second Grammy Award.
The second single was "Coconut," a novelty calypso number featuring three characters (the narrator, the sister, and the doctor) all sung in different voices by Nilsson. The song is best remembered for its chorus lyric, "Put de lime in de coconut, and drink 'em both up."
The third single, "Jump into the Fire," a drum solo by Derek and the Dominos' Jim Gordon and a "bass detuning" by Herbie Flowers. The song was famously used during the "Sunday, May 11, 1980," sequence in the 1990 film Goodfellas.
When John Lennon moved to California, Nielson and he planned to co-produce Nilsson's next album. However, their time together in California became known much more for heavy drinking and drug use than music. In a widely publicized incident, they were ejected from the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood for drunken heckling of the Smothers Brothers.
-----Nilsson suffered a massive heart attack in 1993. While recovering, he resumed recording, attempting to complete one final album. He finished the vocal tracks with producer Mark Hudson, who still retains the tapes of that session. On January 15, 1994, Nilsson died of heart failure in his Agoura Hills, California home.
In 1995, the 2-CD anthology he worked on with RCA, Personal Best, was released.