Harry Nilsson — world-historically gifted rock singer, constant studio experimenter, legendary partier — is one of the great cult figures of American pop music. Nilsson made hits; his breakout song, “Everybody’s Talkin’,” plays throughout the transformational 1969 blockbuster Midnight Cowboy, and he more or less perfected the power ballad with the 1972 #1 hit “Without You.” But these days, Nilsson is mostly remembered as John Lennon’s favorite drinking buddy and as a crafter of cultishly beloved studio-rock nuggets — like 1971’s “Gotta Get Up,” which plays over and over during the much-loved 2019 Netflix series Russian Doll. He’s an American original, and we’re about to hear more of him.
Nilsson died of a heart attack in 1994, at the age of 52. He never released anything after 1980, when he came out with both his Flash Harry album and his soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Popeye. But according to The Washington Post, Nilsson finished a set of demos for a new album in 1992, two years before his death. According to his collaborator Mark Hudson, Nilsson brought those demos to his label: “Harry, he spoke his mind. We went in there and played them like three of the demos, and I could see it in their faces, and Harry goes, ‘You guys don’t get it, do you?’ I said, ‘Harry, music has changed a little bit.’ And he said, ‘Change this,’ and got up and walked out.”
This fall, though, a polished form of those demos is coming out. Hudson worked on them, turning them into an album called Losst And Found. He used Nilsson’s vocals and musical contributions from some of his friends, including Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks, songwriting legend Jimmy Webb, and great session drummer Jim Keltner. Nilsson’s son Kiefo, who was eight when he died, plays bass on the album.
Thus far, Hudson has shared two songs from the album, an amiable amble called “UCLA” and a revved-up rock singalong called “Lost And Found.” You can listen to both below, via The Washington Post. And you can also check out the album’s tracklist and a letter from Mark Hudson to Harry Nilsson, via Pitchfork.
It’s been a little over 25 years since we’ve had one of “our conversations” and I can’t tell you how much I miss your wisdom, humor, passion, stories, and most of all… your music… Anyway, I finally finished the record we were working on… All of your ideas I would write down, and I have put them into this project… Making this album was a dream come true for me. I promised you we would finish it and get it out there one day and that day has finally come!
Losst And Found is out 11/22 on Omnivore Recordings.