Friday, February 07, 2014

The love of Harry Nilsson's life

I know Harry Nilsson's records well but I didn't join the dots of his personal life until I saw Who Is Harry Nilsson (and why is everybody talkin' about him?).

The biggest surprise was the third wife, a 19-year-old Irish exchange student called Una he met in an ice cream parlour in New York. He was drunk on brandy. He'd shot his voice. His career was pretty much over. He told her she had the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. He wasn't a bad judge.

They got married in a fever. A cocaine fever. First he lost his money. Then he lost his health. And yet, unbelievably, he and Una had six children and were happy. As old friends like Jimmy Webb and Van Dyke Parks attest in the film, he faced his premature end without any rancour. His kids talk about him without any bitterness. Una still has beautiful eyes.

It's Valentine's Day next Friday.


  1. David .... I'd recommend the biography Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter by Alyn Shipton plus the 20+ CD RCA Box Set .... if you judge people by the company they keep - well, Harry worked with some of the greatest musicians and producers ever ... a stunning ranhge and a real character !

  2. In early 1972 Nilsson was red hot with the "Nilsson Schmilsson" LP and the attendant chart topping single "Without You". At the time I worked for Harry's UK music publisher who, in order to capitalise on his sudden high profile, had cobbled together a songbook containing some of his biggest tunes.
    I was dispatched to Harry's Curzon Street, Mayfair flat with proof sheets of photos for him to approve for the songbook.
    He answered the door looking like a man nursing the worst hangover in the world and although it was early afternoon, he was still padding around in his dressing gown - the very same one he's wearing on the cover of "Nilsson Schmilsson" I was thrilled to note.
    Harry took an age to peruse the photographs and meanwhile I drank tea made by his stunning lady friend and leafed through his small but tasteful record collection, making a mental note that it contained exactly the titles one would expect: Beatles (of course), McCartney's solo debut and "Ram", Randy Newman, the newly-released Paul Simon self-titled LP etc.
    As we know, just a couple of years later both Mama Cass and Keith Moon would die in separate incidents in that same Curzon Street flat.