August 6, 2009

Digging For Covers: Harry Nilsson sings Jimmy Cliff

In 1973, John Lennon embarked on his "lost weekend"—an 18-month-long period of separation from Yoko Ono. During the oft-drunken and drug-fueled "weekend," Lennon became involved with his assistant May Fung Yee Pang at the request of Ono. One of Pang's musical contributions was renting a beach house in Santa Monica for Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Lennon so that the musicians could live under the same roof together and get to the studio on time—no matter how intoxicated they were.

The project was Nilsson's Pussy Cats. Produced by Lennon and released in 1974, Pussy Cats was a messy and raw collection of original songs and covers—including Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and the children's sing-along "Loop De Loop"—that over time has become a cult classic (it was covered in its entirety by The Walkmen in 2006).

Perhaps the album's most affective track is the cover of Jimmy Cliff's somber "Many Rivers To Cross." Nilsson, who ruptured a vocal cord during the album's production, sings with an especially broken and rough tone that transforms the song from its ocean view in Dover, Jamaica to the sticky floors of a lonely bar.

Once in an interview, Lennon poetically revealed his true feelings about the period (without Yoko around) to journalist Larry Kane:
You know Larry, I may have been the happiest I've ever been... I loved this woman, I made some beautiful music and I got so fucked up with booze and shit and whatever.
Harry Nilsson - "Many Rivers To Cross" (from Pussy Cats)

Harry Nilsson

1 comment:

  1. 1973 in many ways was a magical year indeed