Nilsson : The Life of a Singer-Songwriter

4.08 (223 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 4 business days
When will my order arrive?


Paul McCartney and John Lennon described him as the Beatles' "favorite group," and yet no figure in popular music is as much of a paradox as Harry Nilsson. A major celebrity at a time when stadium rock was in its infancy and huge concerts and festivals were becoming the norm, Nilsson's instrument was the studio, his stage the dubbing booth, his greatest technical triumphs were masterful examples of studio craft, and he studiously avoided live performance. He was a gifted composer of songs for a wide variety of performers, having created vivid flights of imagination for the Ronettes, the Yardbirds and the Monkees, yet Nilsson's own biggest hits were almost all written, ironically, by other composers and lyricists. He won two Grammies, had two top ten singles, and numerous album successes. Once described by his producer Richard Perry as "the finest white male singer on the planet," near the end of his life, his career was marked by voice-damaging substance abuse and the infamous deaths of both Keith Moon and Mama Cass in his London flat.
His music remains prevalent today, through the 1995 tribute album For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson (featuring performances of Nilsson's hits by Ringo Starr, Stevie Nicks, Fred Schneider and others) and recent covers, such as Aimee Mann's recording of "One" (popularized as the main track on the Magnolia soundtrack) and Neko Case's arrangement of "Don't Forget Me" on her album, Middle Cyclone. In this first ever full-length biography of Nilsson, author Alyn Shipton traces Nilsson's life from his Brooklyn childhood to his Los Angeles adolescence, and charts his gradual move into the spotlight as a talented songwriter. With interviews from Nilsson's friends, family and associates, and material drawn from an unfinished draft autobiography Nilsson was writing prior to his death, Shipton probes beneath the enigma and the paradox to discover the real Harry Nilsson, and thereby reveals one of the most creative talents in 20th century popular music.
show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 635.03g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199756570
  • 9780199756575
  • 238,274

Review quote

He was once described by his producer Richard Perry as the finest white male singer on the planet. Drawing on exclusive access to Nilsson's papers, Alyn Shipton's biography offers readers an intimate portrait of a man who has seemed both famous and unknowable-until now. * Goodreads * [Shipton] gives us the definitive take on an American original * Jeremy Shatan, An Earful * [This] detailed biography doesn't miss a single fact from the birth of Harry Nilsson in 1941 to his death, aged 52 ... Shipton chronicles the fascinating and equally heart-breaking life of this maverick musician. It's all here, warts and all ... [It] catches the very essence of Nilsson * Jon 'Mojo' Mills, Shindig * Shipton, a U.K. academic, balances Nilsson's tragic story with exacting analysis of his talents and similarly detailed accounts of bacchanalian exploits with ex-Beatles and other bons vivants. * Barry Walters, Rolling Stone * Bravo to Shipton for not only giving us the first Nilsson biography but, really, the only one we ever may need. * PopMatters * Despite the sadness at the heart of Shipton's biography, it rarely feels like a lament... Impressive and meticulously researched. * The Lady *
show more

About Alyn Shipton

Alyn Shipton is the author of many books on music including A New History of Jazz, Groovin' High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie, and Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway. His biography of Harry Nilsson won both an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and an ASRC Award for the best pop biography of 2013. He is the presenter of Jazz Record Requests on BBC Radio 3, and has also written on jazz for several newspapers including the Guardian,
the Daily Telegraph and the Times. He is an accomplished double bassist and currently co-leads the Buck Clayton Legacy Band.
show more

Table of contents

Contents ; Chapter 1: 1941 ; Chapter 2: Good Old Desk ; Chapter 3: Mr. Richland's Favorite Song ; Chapter 4: Open Your Window ; Chapter 5: Gotta Get Up ; Chapter 6: It Had To Be You ; Chapter 7: Don't Forget Me ; Chapter 8: Turn Out The Light ; Chapter 9: Perfect Day ; Chapter 10: It's So Easy ; Chapter 11: Lay Down Your Arms ; Chapter 12: Epilogue ; Nilsson on CD ; Bibliography ; Notes ; Index
show more

Rating details

223 ratings
4.08 out of 5 stars
5 31% (69)
4 51% (113)
3 15% (33)
2 3% (6)
1 1% (2)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X