The Hardest-Living Musician With The Most Beautiful Voice

Illustration for article titled The Hardest-Living Musician With The Most Beautiful Voice

Musicians are notoriously hard-living, but there's one man who, based on deeply affectionate and incredibly wild stories from his (famous) friends, really and truly went for it. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) is a fantastic introduction to the singer-songwriter whose flawless voice belied a decidedly imperfect, human existence.

Here are a few descriptions of Nilsson from pals like Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle. "Like a fallen angel. There was this weird combination of something heavenly and beatific about him, and then just dirt, and darkness." "A big bunny with really sharp teeth." "He spent most of his life in pursuit of a good time. And he caught it. And it caught him in the end."

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He was too shy to tour and too insecure to fully embrace his success—coping with which likely contributed to his alcohol and drug problem, or "death wish"—but made his mark with everything from ballads like "Without You," to "The Point," an animated children's musical, to the eponymous jangly number for Midnight Cowboy (later re-popularized on the ubiquitous soundtrack for Forrest Gump).

There's a tenderness in the way every single talking head reminisces about this guy that's impossible to deny, and though he passed away in 1994 they speak as if the memories were from yesterday. There's so much emotion in this doc that even if you're not familiar with Schmilsson it's likely you'll come out of a viewing with a brand new favorite artist as you follow his the fascinating, frustrating, impeccably soundtracked journey. [Netflix]

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In an interview Mickey Dolenz (lead singer of The Monkees) recalled his rock star years: "Harry Nilsson would stop by and say 'Let's get some lunch'. I'd wake up three days later in a massage parlor in Albuquerque with no memory of how I got there."

Fun fact: in the same interview Mickey pointed out the entire Monkees thing, the show, tours, reunions and all, had only taken up about five years of his life. He's had an entire career as a director in the UK, but he says all anyone remembers is the Monkees. The interviewer asked him if he was close to the other band members; he said they weren't best friends, but they all felt the kind of enduring bond the survivors of a plane crash might feel for each other.