Monday, July 22, 2013

"Nilsson: The Life of a Siinger-Songwriter" by Alyn Shipton

Harry Nilsson is a fascinating music artist. For me, he was someone that was around, but never the focus on any scene. On one hand he had direct contact with The Beatles (who admired Harry's work greatly as well as a friend) and on the other he was very much in tuned with the pop music market. In one way he can be seen as the bridge between music underground and music 'overground. He was very much the professional music songwriter and yet on his solo recordings took great chances. And I think now because he did took those chances, he is much and greatly admired. 

Born in Bushwick Brooklyn (one would think there should be a stature of him at the Bushwick station) from a troubled family came a songwriter who wrote incredibly moving songs about the bonding of friendship and parent & child. "Me And My Arrow" is without a doubt one of the great songs about a human and his dog. And as they about the milkman whistling a tune, I do the same for this song whenever I take a walk around the neighborhood. That song works on so many levels. Alyn Shipton's biography captures the essense of this talented man, who it seems was loved by his friends and family, but had .... a hard life of sorts. With respect to drinking, that seems to me close to the glory years of Errol Flynn and WC Fields.  Him, Ringo, Keith Moon, and others... being in the same room with them doesn't sound like it was good for one's health, but nevertheless a lot of fun. The fact that one meets Harry for lunch usually means they get back home about two days later, is all part of his incredible personality and sense of fun and wonder. 

It is unusual for Oxford to do a biography on a contemporary music figure, but this is a superb book. A must for all Nilsson fans of course, but also for the causal curious music geek who wants to know what it was like to be in the center of the pop world during the late 1960's and '70's. The later years are kind of sad, but without a doubt he was a remarkable figure in American music as well as iconic in his stance as the ultimate party boy. But in the end one is left with the albums, and that is a great journey to go on. Make sure you have this book as you take that trip...
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