Harry Nilsson: Get to Know Him

©2013 DogsoverLava, Staff Writer

I was scrolling through my netflix account last year and came across the title of a documentary movie that asked the question: Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?


By the end of the film I absolutely knew who Harry Nilsson was, but also realized that I already knew him – or at least knew of him through his muisc and compositions.  I can guarantee that you’ll be watching the film like I was, going “Oh! That one!  I know that one…and that one… That was him too?  Wow! And that one?…”  If you are a Beatles fan, or a student of popular culture and music, watching this film will add so much more colour and texture to the tableau of your understanding of popular music both past and present that you will see yourself from here forward as enlightened from a darkness you never knew you were in.  Nilsson’s story and music is a bridge over a gap you never knew existed.  Run to see this film however you can (may still be on netflix but if you still have a local video store it may be available to rent, or you can try the amazon link as well).

After the film you will be ravenous for the music and that’s a good thing because Nilsson’s RCA catalogue has just been re-released on CD in a limited edition import.  And if that’s not enough Harry for you then you’re in luck.  It’s actually kind of a renaissance period for Nilsson, including a new biography released this year by Alyn Shipton.  Early word is that the book is a balanced portrait of the complicated man, focusing on his triumphs as much as his failures.  But it’s hearing the music that will make you a fan.

Songs from the film will resonate and be suggestive of how you’ll tear into the catalog.  You’ll be hungry for sure so you’ll probably jump around through the set a bit.  Just go with it.  Particular revelations will be found in Pandemonium Shadow Show, Aerial Ballet, Harry, Nilsson Schmilsson, and Knnillssonn, but the whole set will be such an amazing journey you’ll feel like Odysseus navigating the rich lands and waters of what Harry Nilsson left behind.  I couldn’t recommend the film (which is currently getting a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes) or his music any more highly.

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