Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter

Oxford Univ. 2013. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199756575. $27.95. MUSIC
One of the greatest male voices of his generation. A pioneer of the recording studio. Friend to Beatles, Monkees, and (Monty) Pythons. Add to this list of remarkable qualities of Harry Nilsson's life that it has remained thus far unexamined by biographers. Thankfully, Shipton (A New History of Jazz) addresses that issue with this scholarly yet intimate work. From a wealth of research material, including an unfinished autobiography, he has crafted as near as possible a complete picture of an extremely complicated man. Music buffs will appreciate the nuanced descriptions of Nilsson's vocal range, lyrical themes, and recording techniques, while the details of his troubled youth, early success, drink- and drug-fueled high jinks with famous friends, and struggle to find domestic stability will appeal to more general readers.
VERDICT Like its subject, this book hits all the right notes. Highly recommended for popular music collections and fans of "'rise and fall"-style biographies.
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