Without You (Badfinger song)

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"Without You"
Song by Badfinger
from the album No Dice
Released9 November 1970 (1970-11-09)
Recorded15 & 29 July 1970
StudioAbbey Road, London
Songwriter(s)Pete Ham, Tom Evans
Producer(s)Geoff Emerick

"Without You" is a song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British rock group Badfinger, and first released on their 1970 album No Dice. The power ballad[1] has been recorded by over 180 artists,[2] and versions released as singles by Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994) became international best-sellers. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as "the killer song of all time".[3]

In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy's Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[4]

Badfinger original[edit]

First recorded by the rock group Badfinger, the song was composed by two of its members. Pete Ham wrote a song originally titled "If It's Love", but it had lacked a strong chorus. At the time of writing, the band shared residence with the Mojos at 7 Park Avenue in Golders Green. One evening, in the midst of the parties, songwriting, touring, in Golders Green, Ham and his girlfriend Beverly Tucker were about to go out for the evening. But just as they were leaving Tom Evans said he had an idea for a song – Ham said, "Not tonight, I've promised Bev." But she thought he would be wondering if he had done the right thing later, if he went out, – she told him – "Go into the studio, I'm fine about it" ... He said, "Your mouth is smiling, but your eyes are sad." The song Ham wrote that night was called "If its Love" and has the verse "Well I can't forget tomorrow, when I think of all my sorrow, I had you there but then I let you go, and now it's only fair that I should let you know ... if it's love". But Ham wasn't happy with the chorus.[5][not in citation given]

Evans' relationship with his future wife Marianne influenced his lyrics:

One evening he [Evans] went to her [Marianne's] friend Karen and told Karen, "She's left me. I need her back. I can't live without her." He flew to Bonn to find her – he wrote a song called "I Can't Live". Its chorus included "I can't live, if living is without you, I can't live, I can't give any more." And so the merging of the two songs,[6][not in citation given] Ham and Evans created the hit [with] Ham's verse, "warm, sweet, sentimental" and Evans' chorus, "intense, dramatic, heartbreaking."[7]

Both Ham and Evans said they did not consider the song to have much potential at the time Badfinger recorded it, and the track was slotted to close the first side of their 1970 No Dice album. Badfinger's recording of the song, which is more brusque than its successors' versions, was not released as a single in Europe or North America.

The two writers of the song, Ham and Evans, later committed suicide due to legal and financial issues. In Evans' case, it was a dispute over songwriting royalties for "Without You" that precipitated his action. Songwriting royalties had become the subject of constant legal wrangling for Evans, and In 1983, following an acrimonious argument with his bandmate Joey Molland over the royalties for the song, Evans hanged himself.[8][9]

Harry Nilsson version[edit]

"Without You"
Single by Nilsson
from the album Nilsson Schmilsson
B-side"Gotta Get Up"
Released11 October 1971 (1971-10-11)
Format7-inch single
StudioTrident, London
Songwriter(s)Pete Ham, Tom Evans
Producer(s)Richard Perry
Nilsson singles chronology
"Me and My Arrow"
"Without You"
"Jump into the Fire"


Harry Nilsson, at the time best known for his hit "Everybody's Talkin'" and for composing such hits as Three Dog Night's "One", heard Badfinger's recording of "Without You" at a party,[10] and mistook it for a Beatles song.[11] After realising it was not, he decided to cover the song for his album Nilsson Schmilsson in 1971. The song was released as a single in October 1971, and it stayed at number one on the U.S. pop chart for four weeks, from 13 February to 11 March 1972. The song also spent five weeks atop the U.S. adult contemporary chart. Billboard ranked it as the number four song for 1972.[12]

In the UK, the song spent five weeks at number one on the British pop chart, beginning on 11 March, and sold almost 800,000 copies.[13] It went to number one in several other countries, including Australia (for five weeks), Ireland (two weeks) and New Zealand (two weeks).

The single was produced by Richard Perry, who later explained, "It was a different record for its time. It was a big ballad with a heavy backbeat, and although many artists have cut songs like it since, no one was doing it then."[14] Gary Wright who worked with Badfinger on George Harrison's projects, played the piano. Also featured are Klaus Voormann (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and Tom Plovanic (acoustic guitar). The string and horn arrangements are by Paul Buckmaster. In 1973, Nilsson won the "Best Male Pop Vocal" Grammy award for the song.[15] While Nilsson rarely gave live concerts, he did perform the song with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in September 1992.[16]

Harry Nilsson track listing[edit]

Worldwide Single

  1. "Without You" – 3:17
  2. "Gotta Get Up" – 2:24

EP (Portugal)

  1. "Without You" – 3:17
  2. "The Moonbeam Song" – 3:18
  3. "Gotta Get Up" – 2:24
  4. "Jump Into The Fire" – 3:32

Chart performance[edit]

Personnel According to the 1971 LP credits:[31]

Mariah Carey version[edit]

"Without You"
Mariah Carey - Without You (Artwork).jpg
Standard cover art; most of non-UK European releases omit "Never Forget You" on the front cover
Single by Mariah Carey
from the album Music Box
A-side"Never Forget You" (double A-side)
Released24 January 1994 (1994-01-24)
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"Without You" / "Never Forget You"
"Anytime You Need a Friend"
Music video
"Without You" on YouTube


American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey's version, based on Harry Nilsson's version rather than the Badfinger original, was released as the third single off Music Box in the first quarter of 1994, its U.S. release date of 24 January 1994 [32] falling just over a week after Nilsson had died following a heart attack on 15 January 1994. In the U.S. "Without You" was promoted as a double A-side with "Never Forget You". While she had heard Nilsson's version as a very young girl, Carey's decision to remake his hit was based on a chance hearing during the time she was recording Music Box: "I heard that song in a restaurant and just knew it would be a huge international hit" recalls Carey.[33] Carey's version has been considered very popular on talent shows.[34] "Without You" was later included on some non-U.S. pressings of her compilation albums #1's (1998) and #1 to Infinity (2015), and her 2001 compilation, Greatest Hits. "Without You" was also included on her 2009 compilation The Ballads.

Chart performance[edit]

"Without You" reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, remaining in the top 40 for 21 weeks and on the chart for 23. It reached number two on both the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and Radio & Records pop charts (ending Carey's streak of consecutive number ones on the latter chart; all ten of her previous singles had gone to the top), and number three on the Hot 100 Singles Sales. It was certified gold by the RIAA and sold 600,000 copies domestically.[35][36] It was ranked 16 on the Hot 100 1994 year-end charts.

"Without You" remains Carey's biggest hit across Europe. In the British Isles, where Carey had yet to score a number one hit, "Without You" made its UK chart debut at number one where it remained for four weeks in total, while in Ireland the track was number one for five weeks: "Without You" remains Carey's only number one solo hit in both the UK and Ireland although she has since topped both nations' charts with her 2000 collaboration with Westlife: "Against All Odds". "Without You" is one of five Carey singles certified Gold in the UK with combined sales of 548,000 copies [37]. Also Carey's first chart-topper in Italy, "Without You" was a runaway success in Switzerland (with ten non-consecutive weeks at number 1), the Netherlands (number one for twelve weeks) and Flemish Belgium and Sweden (both eight weeks at number one), also topping the singles chart in Germany for four weeks and Austria for eight weeks, where Carey's success had previously been limited. In France "Without You" peaked at number two and in Norway at number three. "Without You" was certified gold in Germany and Austria by IFPI and in France by SNEP.

A number three hit for Carey in both Canada and Australia, "Without You" was a number one hit in New Zealand: certified platinum in Australia by ARIA, "Without You" was also certified gold in New Zealand by RIANZ.

Critical reception[edit]

David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called Carey's "Without You" a "by-the-numbers remake of Nilsson's melodramatic 1972 hit."[38] Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone called this song "likeliest contender" for ballads like "I Will Always Love You" praising how "Carey dips into her lower register and is accompanied by backup singers (including herself) magnified to sound like a mighty gospel chorus."[39] Singer Chris De Burgh, who remade "Without You" for his 2008 covers album "Footsteps", would state: "I loved the Nilsson song. I thought the Mariah Carey [cover] was a joke. She was missing the point. He meant it. She didn't."[40] Carey herself would state of "Without You" in 2008: "That song did a lot for me but it's not really representative of me as an artist."[41]

Track listing[edit]

Worldwide CD single

  1. "Without You" – 3:38
  2. "Never Forget You" – 3:45

European maxi-CD single #1

  1. "Without You" – 3:38
  2. "Never Forget You" – 3:45
  3. "Dreamlover (live from Here Is Mariah Carey)" – 4:09

European maxi-CD single #2

  1. "Without You" – 3:38
  2. "Vision of Love" – 3:28
  3. "I'll Be There" (Featuring Trey Lorenz) – 4:28
  4. "Love Takes Time" – 3:48


Other versions[edit]

Notable versions of "Without You" have also been recorded by:

In film and television[edit]

Nilsson's version of "Without You" was used as the opening tune to the 1979 feature film Porridge. In the film Casino, the Nilsson version is playing during one of Ginger's manic episodes. In the film The Rules of Attraction, a college girl commits suicide in a bathtub while this song plays on the soundtrack. In Bridget Jones' Diary, the title character performs a tuneless rendition of this song. In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, this song plays during a raid in which American Marines rescue a kidnapped journalist.

In June 2010 the Harry Nilsson version of the song was used in television advertising for the UK brand Soda Stream.[93]

Nilsson's version was also included in the Apple Productions Movie, "The Son of Dracula".

It was also used in the final scenes of the Inside No. 9 episode A Quiet Night In.

In series two of Peep Show this song was featured in the episode titled Wedding.

In the 2015 movie Vacation, the Harry Nilsson version plays during the Grand Canyon rafting scene.

Nilsson's version was heard in a 2016 commercial for Heinz ketchup that debuted on CBS' coverage of Super Bowl 50 on 7 February 2016.

In the television series 30 Rock episode "Cutbacks" Jonathan sings chorus to Jack after being let go.

ASCAP and Ivor Novello recognition[edit]

On 15 May 1995, at ASCAP's twelfth annual Pop Music Awards in Beverly Hills, California, "Without You" was recognised as one of the 50 most-played songs of 1994 (due largely to Mariah Carey's recording). Discrepancies in ASCAP's books, resulting from a lawsuit against the Ham and Evans estates by their former manager, incorrectly attributed the song as being composed not only by Ham and Evans, but also by Badfinger's other bandmembers, Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland, and their former manager, Bill Collins. This designation and a lack of correction by ASCAP prompted the Ham Estate to boycott the ceremony. The song was also nominated for "Song of the Year" in London at the Ivor Novello Awards.[94]

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External links[edit]