Harry Nilsson's "One (is the loneliest number)"

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/01/19/harry-nilssons-one-is-the-loneliest-number.html


Pfft. Nilson Schmilson.


Anyone who hasn’t seen it should def check out the Nilsson doc “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” It’s a great introduction to his work, life and talent and he gives the background on how he wrote “One (is the loneliest number)”.


I also didn’t know that the Three Dog Night version was a cover. Nilsson’s is definitely much more haunting as a solo, even with what sounds like a double-tracked vocal. Thanks for putting this out there–it’s on my Spotify now.


I think everything Three Dog Night performed was a cover.


I have nostalgic appreciation for this song but must admit that I have felt the loneliest in a crowd.


Also, the wonderful Aimee Mann


I looked it up on Wikipedia but couldn’t find the producer listed. I hear shades of Nick Drake. I did learn that Harry Nilsson composed the song while listening to a busy signal on the phone when he tried to call a friend.


I was coming to share this version and you beat me to it, nice one. Jon Brion’s work with Mann on the Magnolia soundtrack is magnificent.


I went on a bit of a Nilsson kick in 2020, discovered a few songs I’d never heard (The Puppy Song) and a few I didn’t know were his (Without You) along with old favorites (One, Gotta Get Up, the Coconut Song, How Can I Be Sure of You, etc.) He’s not exactly forgotten, but considering the breadth and quality of his work I’m surprised he’s not more of a household name.

But I think my favorite version of “One” is Aimee Mann’s cover from the Magnolia soundtrack…

Edit: Took too long composing my post and got ninja’d!


One of my absolute favorite songs, and I had no idea it was originally a Harry Nilsson song. Thanks for posting! (And yes, Aimee Mann deserves a big mention here as well!)


Aimee Mann was brilliant and you can tell she drew inspiration from this original, very very good.


because i am a nerd about this stuff and because nobody asked, i also want to point out in case anybody missed it that the nilsson song “without you” was first written and recorded by badfinger.

nilsson was asked to write a song for the film “midnight cowboy,” for which he offered “i guess the lord must be in new york city.” simultaneously, bob dylan also wrote “lay lady lay” for the film. in the end, neither were used, and nilsson’s cover of fred neil’s “everybody’s talkin’” was used instead, as this was what the filmmaker had in mind when searching for another song. randy newman’s “cowboy” was also in the running. nilsson later recorded an album of newman’s songs.

three dog night’s other famous covers include randy newman’s “mama told me not to come” and hoyt axton’s “joy to the world.”

the producer was rick jarrard, who also produced the “surrealistic pillow” album by jefferson airplane.

this is what i spend my time thinking about.


This is funny but not for anyone about to sit down for a meal.

In public sewage plants they use an enzyme to help break down the solid human waste. The enzyme is destroyed if there’s a large concentration of chemical anti flea wash (or similar) that someone has flushed down the toilet. It can cause major problems at the plant.

In the sewage industry they call such an event a “Three Dog Night.”

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Don’t forget the Beta Band song which is kind of a cover (Built around sample of Nilsson’s song).


What a lovely voice- that was beautiful.


Came here to post this :slight_smile:

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True, one is the loneliest number, but then again:


Mmmmmm, absolutely! I adore Aimee, her voice and her songwriting, ever since I heard a track from the second ‘Til Tuesday album, ‘Welcome Home’, the track was ‘Coming Up Close’ and it’s still one of my top favourite songs by any artist.
I’ve been fortunate to see Aimee play quite a few times, and met her after a couple of gigs, and she’s every bit as nice as you’d want her to be.
I knew ‘One’ was a Nilsson song, I was completely unfamiliar with the Three Dog Night version though.
I was just thinking, Aimee’s known for her cover of a Nilsson song which nobody seems to be aware that he wrote, while Nilsson is probably best known for ‘Without You’, a song that he covered, most people unaware that it was written by the two main writers in Badfinger; which is ok, but Nilsson’s version is the definitive one.
I’m thinking now I ought to start digging into his back catalogue, I only have the one song, to my shame.