Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songrwiter by Alyn Shipton, abridged by Libby Spurrier

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Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 26-30 August 2013
Harry Nilsson will forever be associated in my mind with two musical events: the chart-topping song "Without You" (1972), which kept Don McLean's "American Pie" from occupying the No.1 spot in the British hit-parade; and the album A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973), a compilation of classic 20th century standards arranged by Frank Sinatra arranger Gordon Jenkins.
Alyn Shipton's biography told the tale of a man growing up in modest circumstances, with an alcoholic mother and an errant father.  He eventually left home and managed to find a job; his big break came when his song "Cuddly Toy" was performed by The Monkees (1967), allowing him to pursue a full-time career as a musician.  Other successes followed, including his performance of "Everybody's Talkin,'" written by Fred Neil, which formed the title-song for John Schlesinger's film Midnight Cowboy (1969).   Nilsson also worked closely with The Beatles; he wrote a song for Paul McCartney, made films and parties with Ringo Starr, and recorded with John Lennon.
Alyn Shipton's biography told the tale of a talented person destroyed by drink and drugs.  While devoted to his family in later life, Nilsson was unable to reform, despite numerous attempts to do so.  Sometimes his friends made strenuous efforts to cover up some of his public excesses - for example, being arrested in a London street for assaulting a police officer.  We did not learn too much about Nilsson the man (despite the author's professed intention to uncover the "real" person behind the public image).  This was rather a shame; I'd love to have known more about why he was so reluctant to perform in front of a live audience. 
Kerry Shale read the story with boundless enthusiasm, suggesting that he was fully engaged with the material.  The producer was Joanna Green.