Harry Nilsson

Without You

Song Review by

"Without You" was originally recorded by Badfinger, but it's mostly associated with the hit cover versions of the song, first by Nilsson in the early '70s, then by Mariah Carey in the mid-'90s. It would be fair to say, then, that Badfinger had no idea of the song's commercial potential when the band used it as a mere album track on its 1970 LP No Dice. As originally recorded by Badfinger, "Without You" was a nice melancholy love ballad, one that, like so many of its songs, had a Paul McCartney-like melody. "Without You" was gloomier, though, than Badfinger's habitual cheery harmonized pop, the desperation peaking on the chorus, where the narrator's proclamation that he couldn't live without his lover anymore mounted in intensity. Badfinger didn't emphasize the drama of the chorus as much as they could have, or pull out all the stops in the track's production -- it was just an album cut, after all. It took Harry Nilsson to fully exploit the song's melodrama, and it was fitting that Nilsson covered it, as, like Badfinger, his music and career had often been compared to and associated with Beatles-lite. Nilsson, with assistance from producer Richard Berry and Paul Buckmaster (who arranged and conducted the strings and horns), made the song over into an orchestrated operetta. In particular, he almost reinvented the chorus, not melodically but by singing it in his operatic range against swelling orchestration. When Badfinger sang the chorus, they sounded resigned; when Nilsson sang it, he sounded almost suicidally desperate. The public responded to his entreaties by giving him a number one single with it in 1972. The record went on to become a commercial radio perennial, not just on oldies stations, but also on adult contemporary and easy listening ones. Its radio exposure multiplied, though in a fashion that annoyed many who had valued Nilsson's interpretation, when Mariah Carey had a big hit with an unimaginative cover version in 1994.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Nilsson Schmilsson 1971 Bmg Camden 3:56
All-Time Greatest Hits 1978 RCA 3:18
No Image 1978 3:17
Sounds of the Seventies: 1972 1989
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:21
Nipper's #1 Hits: 1956-1986 1990
Various Artists
RCA
Without Her - Without You: The Very Best of Harry Nilsson, Vol. 1 1990 RCA
Nipper's Greatest Hits: The 70's 1990
Various Artists
RCA 3:15
Hits 94, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Telstar
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
Endless Love [PolyGram TV] 1995
Various Artists
Polygram
Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology 1995 RCA 3:22
Hearts Desire: 18 Classic Love Songs 1995
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 3:17
Casino [Original Soundtrack] 1995
Original Soundtrack
MCA 3:20
Do You Love Me?: All-Time Best Love Songs 1996
Various Artists
BMG 3:24
Only Rock 'N Roll 1970-1974: #1 Radio Hits 1996
Various Artists
Essex 3:19
Greatest Soundtrack Hits, Vol. 2 1997
Original Soundtrack
Priority Records 3:21
Billboard Top Soft Rock Hits: 1972 1997
Various Artists
Rhino
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1970-1971 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 3:17
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1970-1978 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 3:17
Mixed Emotions 1997
Various Artists
Polygram 3:17
Number Ones: Lovin' Feelings 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 3:17
One and Only Love Album 1998
Various Artists
Polydor / Polygram 3:22
Love Songs of the 60's, 70's and 80's 1998
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:19
Time in a Bottle 1998
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 2:28
Pick of the 70's, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Collection 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 3:22
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Love and Inspiration 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 3:22
Body Talk: Hearts Together 1998
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:18
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 3:21
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Razor & Tie
Kuschelrock, Vol. 1 1999 Sony Music Distribution 3:16
Love Songs [Columbia River] 1999
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:19
No Image 1999 BMG Special Products 3:20
Greatest Hits of the 70's, Vol. 4 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:21
The Greatest Hits of the 70s [Box Set #1] 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:22
Billboard Top Soft Rock Hits: 1970-1974 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:22
Kuschelrock Special Edition 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
AM Gold: Mellow Hits 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:23
Love Songs [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Chakras Dream 3:18
Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Christmas Gift to You 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 3:22
AM Gold: Radio Hits 70's 1999
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:23
Soft Rockin' 70's, Vol. 2 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:23
Slow Motion Century Edition 2000
Various Artists
BMG International 3:20
Everybody's Talkin': The Very Best of Harry Nilsson [Camden] 2000 Camden 3:22
The Official American Bandstand Library of Rock & Roll 2000
Various Artists
Atlantic 3:16
Casey Kasem: America's Top 10 Through the Years 2000
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 3:23
Burning Hearts, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Polygram 3:19
Greatest Hits of the 70's [BMG Greeting Card CD] 2000
Various Artists
3:19
Legendary 2000 BMG International 3:23
Singers & Songwriters: 1972-1973 2000
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:20
'70s Rock Hits 2001
Various Artists
Compose Records 3:16
Best of Romantic Rock, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
BMG Special Marketing 3:21
Love Ballads to Remember 2001
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group / BMG Special Products 3:19
Everybody's Talkin' [Armoury] 2001 Armoury Records 3:22
Casey Kasem: America's Top 10 Through Years - The 70's 2001
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 3:23
Sunday Love Songs 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 3:21
Without You 2001 DJ Specialist / Disky 3:16
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1970-1974 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:21
The Ultimate Hits of the 70's 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 3:19
Bridget Jones's Dairy 2 2001
Original Soundtrack
Universal International 3:19
A Year in Your Life: 1972, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Definitive 3:21
The Ultimate Jukebox Hits of the '70s, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 3:19
Jukebox Hits of the '70s [Collectables] 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 3:31
The Love Album: Classics 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:17
Greatest Hits [2002] 2002 BMG Heritage / RCA
40 Years of Jukebox Hits: The 50's, 60's, 70's & 80's 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 3:19
Greatest Hits [BMG Japan] 2002 BMG 3:21
The Rules of Attraction 2002
Original Soundtrack
Lionsgate 3:20
The Best of Harry Nilsson [BMG Import] 2003 Camden / BMG UK & Ireland 3:23
Good Morning Vietnam: A Soundtrack for a Generation 2004
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:14
Classic Tearjerkers [Time/Life] 2004
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:21
Ultimate 16: Lite FM Best Of 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:21
One: The Best of Nilsson 2007 Music Club Records / Music Club Deluxe 3:24
Original Hits: Love 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:18
The Essential Nilsson 2013 RCA 3:22
The RCA Albums Collection 2013 RCA / Sony Legacy / Sony Music 3:55
Latest & Greatest No. 1s 2014
Various Artists
Union Square Music 3:19
70's Songs
Various Artists
Crimson / Sony Music 3:19
70s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson 3:21
Easy Listening Classics: Time Life's Movie Classics
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:20
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
Party Tyme Karaoke: Billboard Top 40 Karaoke, Vol. 6
Karaoke
Sybersound Records 3:30
Rock & Romance Collection
Various Artists
Time Life 3:18
The Greatest Love Songs of the '70s
Various Artists
Time Life 3:19