A conversation with director John Scheinfeld about his superb documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?).
If you’re under 45-years of age, you might have little idea of who the great singer/songwriter/hellraiser Harry Nilsson was, but surely almost everyone has heard his biggest hits “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack), “Without You” (a Badfinger cover given its devastating emotional impact by Harry’s plaintiff three octave vocal range, later recorded by Mariah Carey) and “Coconut” which was used in dozens of movies (normally during a drinking scene) and in more than one 7UP advertising campaign.
Harry Nilsson was also responsible for co-creating the much-loved children’s TV movie, The Point, a Ringo Starr-narrated fable about a boy named Oblio, born with a round head in a land of pointy-headed people. (”Me and My Arrow” and “Are You Sleeping” are two of the best remembered songs from the project. Scratch someone in their 40s and trust me, they’ll be able to sing both from childhood memories of The Point)
Another important thing to know about Harry Nilsson is that he was the favorite American musician of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, no small achievement, that! After Apple Corps press officer Derek Taylor heard Nilsson’s autobiographical “1941” (from his 1967 RCA debut Pandemonium Shadow Show) siting in the car waiting for his wife, he bought a box of the album and gave it away as presents, including to all four Beatles. The story goes that Lennon listened to the album for 36 straight hours before calling Nilsson in Los Angeles and telling him how much he loved his record. McCartney did the same soon after. Nilsson became a part of the Beatles inner circle, becoming close friends with both John (who would produce his 1974 Pussy Cats album) and Ringo (who was the best man at Nilsson’s second wedding).
Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) features stellar interviewees such as Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Yoko Ono, Paul Williams, Mickey Dolenz, Ringo Starr, The Smothers Brothers, and Pythons Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle.