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
Music video
"Without You" (audio) on YouTube

"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 it's 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][failed verification]

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][failed verification] 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 album No Dice. 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"
Without You by Harry Nilsson Side-A US vinyl.png
Side A of US vinyl single
Single by Nilsson
from the album Nilsson Schmilsson
B-side"Gotta Get Up"
Released11 October 1971 (1971-10-11)
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 (pictured in 1972) covered Badfinger's song "Without You".

Harry Nilsson, at the time best known for his hit "Everybody's Talkin'" and for composing "One", recorded by Three Dog Night, 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 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. The single was released by RCA in the autumn of 1971, and first charted on radio stations across the US in early December. "Without You" debuted at number 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 18 December 1971, and on its tenth week, in the chart dated 19 February 1972, started its four-week run at number one. Billboard ranked it as the number four single of 1972.[12] The record topped Billboard's Easy Listening chart for five weeks.

The record spent five weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart, beginning on 11 March, eventually selling 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, Grammy-nominated for Record of the Year, 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 John Uribe (acoustic guitar). The string and horn arrangements are by Paul Buckmaster. In 1973 the single won Nilsson the Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.[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]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[33] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


According to the 1971 LP credits:[34]

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 [35] 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.[36] Carey's version has been considered very popular on talent shows.[37] "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 2008 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.[38][39] It was ranked 16 on the Hot 100 1994 year-end charts. In Canada, it peaked at number four.

"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 collaboration with Westlife: "Against All Odds" in 2000, and "All I Want For Christmas Is You" in 2020. "Without You" was certified platinum in the UK with combined sales and streams of 600,000. It was a runaway success across Europe, in which it topped the European Hot 100 Singles chart for two weeks. "Without You" reached number one for twelve weeks in the Netherlands; ten weeks in Switzerland; eight weeks in Austria and Sweden; seven weeks in Belgium; six weeks in Poland, four weeks in Germany; and two weeks in Scotland, where Carey's success had previously been limited. The song also peaked at number two in France and Denmark, while in Norway it peaked at number three. "Without You" was certified platinum in Germany and Austria by IFPI, and gold in France by SNEP.

Being a number-three hit for Carey in Australia, "Without You" topped the charts in New Zealand for one week. It was certified 2× platinum in Australia by ARIA, and gold in New Zealand by RIANZ.

Critical reception[edit]

Aberdeen Press and Journal described the song as "inspirational".[40] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called Carey's cover a "by-the-numbers remake of Nilsson's melodramatic 1972 hit."[41] John Kilgo from The Network Forty wrote that "exhibiting her dynamic vocal range with powerful emotion, Mariah scores again with her rendition of Harry Nilsson's chart topper."[42] People noted that "she takes on a sensuality—in a lower register—that is often sacrificed for her "look Ma, no hands" vocal fireworks."[43] Pop Rescue stated that "Without You" gives the singer "a ton of space to really let her vocals reach wherever they want to", adding it as "an epic track, and a fantastic showcase of her vocals."[44] Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone called it the "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."[45] Singer Chris De Burgh, who remade "Without You" for his 2008 covers album, Footsteps, stated, "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."[46] In 2008, Carey herself stated of "Without You", "That song did a lot for me but it's not really representative of me as an artist."[47]

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


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[91] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[92] Platinum 50,000*
France (SNEP)[93] Gold 250,000*
Germany (BVMI)[94] Platinum 500,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[95] Platinum 75,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[96] Gold 5,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[97] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[98] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 600,000[39]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Other versions[edit]

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.[101]

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External links[edit]