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Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter Hardcover – July 18, 2013
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Award-winning British jazz critic Shipton calls Harry Nilsson “a songwriter’s songwriter.” Unlike most musicians, Nilsson never regularly toured and rarely performed in concert. Many of his songs were autobiographical, his way of exorcising perhaps the most painful episodes from his life, including his father’s abandoning the family when Nilsson was a boy and the gruesome death of his beloved cat. Shipton’s lovingly detailed biography of an often enigmatic figure chronicles the poverty of Nilsson’s childhood, his fledgling career as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles, his bouts with fame, and his self-destructive behavior. His celebrity friendships are also explored, none more so than his complicated relationship with John Lennon. Shipton describes in detail the notorious incident that took place at the famous West Hollywood club, the Troubadour, in 1974, in which both men caused a drunken commotion. The murder of Lennon in 1980 had a profound impact on Nilsson; the notoriously private singer even campaigned for gun-control legislation. Nilsson fans will appreciate this long-awaited biography of an often neglected and underrated musician. --June Sawyers
"Shipton... 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." --Rolling Stone
"An amazing tale." --Boston Globe
"Nilsson fans will appreciate this long awaited biography of an often neglected and underrated musician." --lBooklist
"An in-depth and informative book."
-Below the Fold
"Readers of this engrossing new biography will come away with a tremendous knowledge of and respect for the man and his music. And a great sense of loss, as this delightful fellow departed far too soon. " --Pop-Culture Classics
"The definitive work on the man who put the lime in the coconut."
"Nilsson: The life of a singer-songwriter, is a fitting epitaph that keeps an unmatched legacy alive. Nilsson's eclectic, eccentric, funny-as-hell, wistful, whimsical, childlike brilliance will be listened to by people 100 years from now. And Shipton's biography does its best to explain it all."
"Shipton, well noted as a researcher in jazz, has produced a very well-researched biography. Certainly more historical than analytical, the book is a fine read and an important addition to the literature because as emerging songwriters begin to explore songs written during a key period of songwriting, they will have no choice but to gravitate toward Nilsson." -T.R. Harrison, Jacksonville University, CHOICE
"Alyn Shipton's biography of singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson is a thorough, loving depiction of one of the era's most endearing and enigmatic characters."--Pacific Rim Review of Books
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A great story, expertly told with extensive supporting notes and bibliography.
For me, what takes this book strongly into the 5 star realm is the detailed accounts revealing how the music was made.
Best case, you own the 17 CD RCA Albums collections (I don't) , worst case you hear the music on youtube & your personal collection (I did)
As I read the stories describing how the various albums came together, and a detail was mentioned about a specific track, vocal, technique, or instrument. I put the book down, and listened to the track on my phone via youtube or itunes. Songs that I have heard many times before surprised me with new life as I listened with new intent.
Most notably, this technique of keeping the music at my fingertips paid off when the book lays praise on Nilsson's voice. Cue up the song in question and realize, wow, he really was as good as all the recent press keeps saying he is/was. ( Examples "Perfect Day" or "All I think About Is You" )
An emotional read, recommended for anyone with the slightest interest in music, or biographies. Essential read for even the most casual fan of Harry Nilsson.
Sadly, Harry's name will forever be tarnished by his Rock-n-Roll lifestyle which very nearly ended his career. While it cannot be overlooked as part of his legacy, rarely does one ever hear of the good things Harry accomplished. Or how in his own way he beat the odds rather than going the way Dennis Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis, and countless others. Shipton gives Harry the respect he deserves by focusing heavily on Harry's work. Very detailed I might add. I think Harry would have been happy to have been remembered by another musician, (Shipton is an accomplished musician and professor).
Yet the book is not a dry read. Harry made sure that when he was remembered, it wouldn't be boring. There's plenty of anecdotes and tales of the ups and downs as Shipton traces Harry's from his horrid childhood to his rise to stardom to his his falls, and his many, many resurrections. If I have one critique of this work it's that we don't get a deeper glimpse into the man's character itself. But then again, maybe Harry wanted it that way. If you're an old Nilsson fan, or a new inductee I would recommend getting the book. And Harry, thanks for all the music, and the laughs along the way. R.I.P.
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of his recordings is here, if that's what you are looking for.Read more