Harry Edward Nilsson III (June 15, 1941 – January 15, 1994), usually credited as Nilsson, was an American singer-songwriter who achieved the peak of his commercial success in the early 1970s. His work is characterized by pioneering overdub experiments, returns to the Great American Songbook, and fusions of Caribbean sounds. A tenor with a three-and-a-half octave range, Nilsson was one of the few major pop-rock recording artists of his era to achieve significant commercial success without ever performing major public concerts or undertaking regular tours.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Nilsson fled to Los Angeles as a teenager, landing a job as a computer programmer at a local bank. It was there that he began taking an interest in musical composition and close-harmony singing, and was successful in having some of his songs recorded by various popular artists such as the Monkees. In 1966, he debuted with Spotlight on Nilsson (1966) followed by Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967), the latter of which started a decade-spanning string of 13 studio albums released on the RCA Victor label. After a period of widely publicized, alcohol-fueled antics with his fellow Hollywood Vampire members in the mid 1970s, Nilsson left RCA, and his record output subsequently diminished. In response to John Lennon's 1980 death by shooting, he took a hiatus from the music industry to campaign for gun control. For the rest of his life, he recorded only on sporadic occasions. In 1994, Nilsson died of a heart attack while recording new material for a since-unreleased comeback album.
The RIAA have certified Nilsson's albums Nilsson Schmilsson (1971) and Son of Schmilsson (1972) as gold records, indicating over 500,000 units sold each. His singles to reach the US top 10 were "Everybody's Talkin'" (1969), "Without You" (1971), and "Coconut" (1972). He also wrote the song "One" (1968), made famous by the rock band Three Dog Night. Nilsson's honors include Grammy Awards for two of his recordings; Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male in 1970 for "Everybody's Talkin'", a prominent song in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1973 for "Without You". In 2015, Nilsson was voted No. 62 in Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time", where he was described as "a pioneer of the Los Angeles studio sound, a crucial bridge between the baroque psychedelic pop of the late Sixties and the more personal singer-songwriter era of the Seventies".