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Born in Brooklyn with Pride: Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson, Singer & Songwriter

Harry Nilsson, Singer & Songwriter

Harry Nilsson was a well-known singer-songwriter that was born in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

He was raised by his grandparents. His grandmother played piano. His grandfather supported the family in their small railroad apartment on Jefferson Avenue.

His father, Harry Edward Nilsson Jr., left the family when Harry was 3-years-old.

Nilsson's "Daddy's Song" refers to this sad period in Nilsson's childhood.

As a teenager, he moved to Los Angeles. He went on to write a number of successful songs "One" was written by Nilsson and turned into a hit by Three Dog Night in 1969.

He sang, but did not write "Everybody's Talkin" which won the song of the year and was the feature soundtrack for the movie "Midnight Cowboy" The song earned Nilsson his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and was his first US Top 10 hit.

His second Grammy award was also for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Without You." which was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of the band "Badfinger."

Nilsson's song "Coconut", is a calypso number. Who can forget its chorus lyric "Put de lime in de coconut, and drink 'em both up". Then there's "Spaceman" another popular song written and performed by Nilsson. "Spaceman" and "Gotta Get Up" are two of my personal favorites that clearly demonstrate his vocal talents and songwriting ability.

He had a long-time friendship with John Lennon and Ringo Starr. The Beatles really liked his music and never hesitated to tell the public. They once asked Lennon who his favorite singer was, he replied "Nilsson." Lennon and Nilsson became close friends and drank heavily together. Lennon also produced one of Nilsson's albums "Pussy Cats." Starr was his best man at his wedding. His 3rd marriage I believe it was.

After Lennon's death. He devoted a lot of his time to a non-profit organization "Coalition to Stop Gun Violence" Nilsson donated performance royalties from songs he performed on Yoko Ono's tribute album Yoko Ono Lennon tribute album Every Man Has a Woman

In 1990, Hawkeye, a production company that Nilsson founded, was in a dire financial situation since his financial adviser, Cindy Sims, embezzled all the funds he had earned as a recording artist. Harry was left with a mere $300 in the bank and a pile of debt. Sims served less than two years in prison and never made restitution.

Nilsson recorded a lot of well-known music for television and that included writing the theme song for "The Courtship for Eddie's Father." The song was "Best Friend." He also wrote the songs for the movie "Popeye" with the exception of the "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man". The movie starred Robin Williams.

The famous Brooklyn-born list of people is long and includes Jackie Gleason, Danny Kaye, Moe & Curly of the Three Stooges, Chuck Connors, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Kimmel, Anne Hathaway, Larry King, Vince Lombardi, Vinnie Testaverde, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Davis, Connie Hawkins, Chris Mullins, Carmelo Anthony, Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, and Dr. Anthony Fauci to name a few.

Though I was a proud Manhattan resident for 12 years, I was equally as proud to say I was born in Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn for the first seven years of my life in the Avenue J section near Brooklyn College and later in Sunset Park (53rd St. & 6th Avenue).

I attended PS 94 and remember as a kid going to Sunset Park with my mother and little cousins to cool off in their large water sprinkler version of a pool. It was how- us city kids survived the hot summers. As a teenager, I spent three enjoyable summers at my Uncle's house in Gerritsen Beach. As an adult, I worked at the Brooklyn Army Terminal for three years.

No matter who I meet or work with, there’s never any hesitation when asked; Where were you born? I say Brooklyn with pride.

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