Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?


Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)? (2010)


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Although he never became the kind of international superstar someone with his remarkable skills should have, Harry Nilsson was arguably the most respected singer, songwriter, and record maker of the '70s, winning a pair of Grammys for his covers of "Everybody's Talkin'," and "Without You." This documentary features archival footage of the quirky performer, and copious new interviews with contemporaries who discuss his outrageous behavior and his formidable talent.

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Critic Reviews for Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (6)

A personal, generous tribute reel designed to keep a musical master's legacy very much alive.

Sep 17, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/5

Conventional in style and is likely to mean more to the sadly forgotten musician's fans than to others.

Sep 10, 2010 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The point of it is not, in the end, to explain him or solve the mystery of his life, but rather to spend time in his company and understand why he is someone to be missed.

Sep 10, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/5

There's been so little written about Nilsson or archiving of his work that Who Is Harry Nilsson is a godsend just for bringing together so much rare footage.

Sep 9, 2010 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
AV Club
Top Critic

Who Is Harry Nilsson is a worthwhile portrait of a genius who made beautiful music, and a case study for how to tragically, epically self-destruct.

Sep 8, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Sticking closely to the archival footage and talking-heads formula, it's the quality of the former and the sense of personal involvement in the latter that elevates the film above the run-of-the-mill rockumentary.

Sep 7, 2010 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?


So, who is Harry Nilsson? That's a question this informative and breezy documentary seeks to answer, after starting with the tantalizing opening of Dustin Hoffman announcing Nilsson's premature death onstage at a benefit while mentioning the vocals Nilsson provided for the film "Midnight Cowboy." In fact, of all the songs he wrote and sung, Nilsson was best known for "One" which was inspired by of all things a telephone's busy signal and popularized by the band Three Dog Night.(I'm partial to the Aimee Mann version myself.) Otherwise, his friends and loved ones regale with stories of his wild partying while never losing sight of the family he raised. Otherwise, the documentary is too dismissive of his work on behalf of the gun control movement, which Nilsson took up after the tragic slaying of John Lennon.(Nilsson and the Beatles had a mutual appreciation and friendship.) Otherwise, there is much speculation, especially in the sour grapes and amateur psychology departments, about Nilsson not being able to sustain his success. But sometimes there is no easy explanation.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


A meticulous, well-made documentary about the late singer-songwriter, though it never quite gets inside his head to explain why he was so self-destructive. It's too bad that more archived conversation footage wasn't available -- the prime resource for Nilsson quotes seems to be a mere phone interview. But actually, the film is overlong in other ways and may fatigue viewers who are not hardcore devotees (personally, I find Nilsson just too cloying to fully enjoy). Interesting revelations for me included learning he was such a happy family man late in life (wow, six kids?) and that he refused to do any full-fledged concerts. For an artist with his Top 40 orientation, that's quite a ferocious stance.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

A very interesting look into the life of one of my favorite musicians. Nilsson's life seemed to be unlike anyone other's, including friendships with The Beatles, Robin Williams, and legendary producer Richard Perry. Exploring through Harry's music, accounts from his former friends, and even a voice over narration from Nilsson himself, this proved to be one of the most interesting docs about a musical genius who has passed made.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


requiem for a guy who almost wasn't famous. considered by many of his peers to be one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation, his brief brush with success almost destroyed him. most remembered today for singing someone else's song which became the theme of the oscar winning film midnight cowboy, he resolutely refused to tour or do anything conventionally. if you've heard the recent cee-lo hit fuck you, nilsson did something very similar--in 1972! a legendary party monster who counted the beatles among his close personal friends, he'll forever be a footnote in rock history if only because both 'mama' cass eliot and who drummer keith moon died in his london apartment, 4 years apart. he wasn't home either time and soon sold the cursed flat to pete townshend. the film gets a little overly sentimental towards the end but it's well worth seeing for the quality of first hand accounts from nilsson contemporaries and even nilsson himself, in a recently discovered autobiographical tape recording. he managed to outlive many of his friends and died in 1994 age 52, probably older than anyone expected back in the day.

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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