I finally, at long last (and after an irritating technical snafu involving a DVD that suddenly acted like it was possessed just as I was really getting into it), got to see the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson? And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him?. What's that, you say? Who the hell is Harry Nilsson, and why does this film have such a long title? If you're around my mom's age, chances are you already know who Nilsson was. Harry Nilsson was one of the most prolific singer-songwriters to come out of his generation, and the title is a reference to the song "Everybody's Talkin'" from Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy. Nilsson sang the song (which he did not, in fact, write) for the film, and won a Grammy for it. His album Nilsson Schmilsson was nominated for just about every Grammy it could have been.
This documentary about the singer-songwriter with one of the best voices of his generation has all the elements of a fine narrative film: A boy, abandoned by his father; a childhood and adolescence spent living with various relatives; that lucky first break that led to more; the son he later abandoned himself, as his father did before him; the redemption he found later with his second wife and their kids. This isn't a fictional tale though, it was Nilsson's life. Like a lot of artists, Nilsson used his art as a means to express his feelings and talk about his life. One of his better-known songs, "1941", chronicles his history with his father: