Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Everybody’s Talkin’

Written and originally recorded by Fred Neil (1966).
Hit version by Nilsson (US #113/CAN #35 1968 |US #6/MOR #2/UK #23/CAN #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Everybody’s Talkin”, written and first released by folk singer Fred Neil in 1966, describes the singer-songwriter’s desire to retreat from other people to live by the ocean.

“It was hurriedly composed towards the end of the session, after Neil had become anxious to put a wrap on the album he was recording so he could return to his home in Miami, Florida … a retreat to the ocean, as it were … and Neil’s other ‘job’ with The Dolphin Project. Manager Herb Cohen promised that if Neil wrote and recorded one final track, he could go. ‘Everybody’s Talkin” was the result – and Neil’s recording was finished in one take!

“Neil was considered a ‘hero’ among the folkie music scene of Greenwich Village in the early ’60s, and mentored several other folk singers who would go on to great fame: Bob Dylan, John Sebastian, and David Crosby among them. ‘I used to play in a a place called Cafe Wha?, and it always used to open at noon and close at six in the morning,’ Bob Dylan told an interviewer in 1984. ‘I used to play with a guy called Fred Neil, who wrote the song ‘Everybody’s Talkin” that was in the film ‘Midnight Cowboy’. He had a strong powerful voice, almost a bass voice. And a powerful sense of rhythm … And he used to play mostly these types of songs that [folk-blues singer] Josh White might sing. I would play harmonica for him, and then once in a while get to sing a song.’

“‘He showed me where to eat, where not to go, how to roll a proper joint, where to get guitar strings,’ David Crosby once said of Neil, whom he met in New York in 1961. ‘He taught me a sizable chunk of what music was about, and even more about the whys and wherefores of being a musician. He was a hero to me.”’

“In 1968, Harry Nilsson was searching for a potential hit single for inclusion on his album Aerial Ballet when his producer, Rick Jarrad (Jefferson Airplane, Jose Feliciano), suggested ‘Everybody’s Talkin”. Nilsson’s cover recording, upon its initial release in July 1968, flopped – ‘bubbling-under’ the Billboard Hot 100 at #113. Still, when publicist Derek Taylor recommended Nilsson to director John Schlesinger for the forthcoming Midnight Cowboy movie soundtrack, Schlesinger selected Nilsson’s cover of Neil’s song over Nilsson’s own original composition for the movie, ‘I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City’, as Midnight Cowboy‘s featured theme. Upon the song’s subsequent re-release as a single in 1969, in tandem with the movie’s opening, Nilsson secured his first US Top 10 hit.

“Nilsson’s cover recording also became a global success, charting in the UK Top-30 and topping the Canadian singles chart. ‘Everybody’s Talkin” also won for Nilsson the 1970 Grammy award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

“‘I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City’ would later be released, independent from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, as a single.”

Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin'” from Midnight Cowboy (1969):