Harry Nilsson Quotes

The following is a collection of quotes from (or about) Harry Nilsson.

Harry Nilsson on Performing Live
I don't know how much I want out of music or how much I'm willing to pay for it. It's acceptance we all want, isn't it? If it's my music that's being played and sung am I accepted? Or do I have to play it and sing it myself? Maybe, that's why I don't perform. I don't feel comfortable before an audience. I don't think I'm afraid to perform, but I'm afraid of becoming a performer. It can be a trap.

-- Harry Nilsson (1969)[1]


Performing is another occupation. Sometimes it is inviting. I like the idea of spontaneity. But you can't change anything in a concert. I may leave my socks on the floor but I'm something of a perfectionist. I can stop the tape in the studio. If I went on stage and things didn't work out I'd probably say let's do it another time and walk off.

-- Harry Nilsson (1972) [2]

Harry Nilsson on John Lennon
The most important thing I learned from him was to follow through, to finish what you start. If you say you’re going to send someone a postcard, send a postcard. He always followed through.

-- Harry Nilsson (1980)[1]


We were good friends. We were roommates twice, once in New York and once in L.A. But all those stories you hear, they were a little blown out of proportion.

-- Harry Nilsson (1981)[2]


Have you ever had a roommate? Did you have good times and laughs? Did you fight over the laundry or anything? That's what it was like. We were pals. We had these amazing arguments. We used to fight over who had more "street." It was at a time when he was separated from Yoko and my wife Una was in Ireland finishing college. We were just a couple of pussycats, like the album. Look, we were human beings and you can't do all that stuff and still come out at the end of it, working and organizing cars and things, and getting to the studio on time and doing the mixing and doing the ads and working out the inside of the album cover and talking seriously about backing musicians - you can't do all that if you're out of your nut That goes without saying, so much for that stuff. We had a great time: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

-- Harry Nilsson (1984)][3]

Harry Nilsson on Songwriting
Songs are vignettes. They are slices of my life. My idea of a song is that it's like a book or movie only you have two or three minutes to convey the idea.

-- Harry Nilsson (1968)[1]


I write from personal experience, personal contact. It's like you experience A and B and come up with C. Basically, they must start with one person, the songwriter, and go to another person, the listener.

-- Harry Nilsson (1968)[2]


While working at a bank, Harry had an answer when people asked why he wasn't doing well with the songs he was writing:

The only way I defended myself was by quoting statistics that fewer people in music got into trouble or jail than people in other trades or professions.

-- Harry Nilsson (1969)[3]


I'm not a musician. I manage to write music using the guitar and piano to get chord structures that I put on tape. Someone who knows how transcribes them. That's how it works.

-- Harry Nilsson (1969)[4]


My music is personal in a way. But, I don't really try for nostalgia. I mean I don't study the 1940s or listen to old records. I guess I've picked up a lot of images by going to old movies.

-- Harry Nilsson (1972)[5]


When I write, I try to create an image that gets an immediate response and then let the image do the work. Picasso can get a quick response from a drawing with only a few lines. In the framework of a three-minute song, you can only say so much.

-- Harry Nilsson (1972)[6]


Harry Nilsson on Gun Violence
I get nervous when they start shooting piano players.

-- Harry Nilsson (1981)[1]

Harry Nilsson on His Career

Jim Painton in a 2002 post to the Harry Nilsson Mailing List described his belief that Harry Nilsson had just been "begrudgingly fulfilling his contract" with RCA from Pussy Cats through Knnillssonn.


I, however, had the pleasure of meeting the man. Although our conversation was brief, he exhibited a realistic handle on his own rise and fall. My loudmouth friend Herb actually admonished Harry - "You could have been bigger than Billy Joel, you sonuvabitch." Harry laughed and said, "I'm not dead YET."


Harry Nilsson on Fame (or the lack of it)
Y'know, it's a lotta fun being me. I can probably go to anyone in this room and introduce myself. Some of them will know who I am, will have heard of my name; others, I could say, "Well, let me remind you," and sing them four or five songs, and they'll say , "Oh, you're the guy who did that?" It's sort of like an author's fame: "I've heard of John Updike. I thought he was dead!" You're famous if you wanna be, get you the proverbial table at the restaurant. But I never get hassled by people.

-- Harry Nilsson (1989)[1]


Harry Nilsson on his Father
I saw him when I was 9, and again recently, like after 20 years. He remarried and had three more children. He's retired now, after he got hurt in an auto plant. He was a supervisor and got to manage one of the Dodger farm clubs. He used to be a pretty good ballplayer once.

-- Harry Nilsson (1969)[1]

Harry Nilsson's Philosophy on Life
You gotta do it, do It, do it. Get stoned, get laid, get sensible, get stoned, get sane, get fat, get thin - do it all, do it to excess.

-- Harry Nilsson (1976)[1]


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