Without You (Badfinger song)

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"Without You"
Song by Badfinger from the album No Dice
Released 9 November 1970 (1970-11-09)
Genre Soft rock
Length 4:43
Label Apple Records
Composer Pete Ham, Tom Evans
Producer 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 song has been recorded by over 180 artists,[1] 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."[2]

In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy's Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[3]

Badfinger origins[edit]

First recorded by the rock group Badfinger, the song was composed by two of its members. Two streams, referring to real events in the songwriters' lives flowed together to create the song. Pete Ham had written 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 Pete wasn't happy with the chorus."[4]

Events in Evans' love life would lead to the completion of the track. While Evans was touring in Cologne he had met the woman who would become his future wife, Marianne. She moved to London. It was a sparky relationship. "One evening he went to her 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; "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,[5] Ham and Evans created the hit. Ham's verse, 'warm, sweet, sentimental' and Evans' chorus, – 'intense, dramatic, heartbreaking.'"[6] 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 Side A 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. "Without You" was released backed by "We're For The Dark" in The Philippines on Apple Records, Catalogue number APPLE-025, "Without You" was also finally released as a 3" CD single in Japan in March 1993 along with the track "No Matter What".

Both the writer of the song, Ham and Evans later committed suicide due to legal and financial issues. The songwriting royalties for "Without You" in particular became the subject of legal wrangling and disputes for Evans. In 1983, following an acrimonious argument with his bandmate Joey Molland over the royalties for "Without You", Evans hanged himself.[7][8]

Harry Nilsson version[edit]

"Without You"
Single by Harry Nilsson
from the album Nilsson Schmilsson
B-side "Gotta Get Up"
Released 11 October 1971 (1971-10-11)
Format 7" single
Recorded 1971
Genre Baroque pop
Length 3:17
Label RCA
Producer(s) Richard Perry

Harry Nilsson, at the time was 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,[9] and mistook it for a Beatles song.[10] 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 1 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 No. 4 song for 1972.[11]

In the UK, the song spent five weeks at number 1 on the British pop chart, beginning on 11 March, and sold almost 800,000 copies.[12] It went to Number One in several other countries, including Australia (for 5 weeks), Ireland (3 weeks) and New Zealand (2 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."[13] Gary Wright, then known as a member of the British group Spooky Tooth, and later a successful solo artist in his own right, played piano on the recording.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

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]


Mariah Carey version[edit]

"Without You"
U.S. CD single
Single by Mariah Carey
from the album Music Box
B-side "Never Forget You"
Released January 23, 1994 (1994-01-23)
Format CD single, cassette single, 7" single, 12" maxi single
Recorded 1993
Length 3:36
Label Columbia
Producer(s) Walter Afanasieff, Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"Without You"/"Never Forget You"
"Anytime You Need a Friend"

Mariah Carey's version, based on Harry Nilsson's version rather than the Badfinger original, was released as the third single of Music Box in the first quarter of 1994, and in the United States it was released on 24 January 1994,[25] just over a week after Nilsson had died following a heart attack on 15 January 1994. In the U.S. it was promoted as a double A-side with "Never Forget You". Carey said that she decided to cover the song when she heard it in a restaurant (although when performing the song in Tokyo, she said she listened to it when she was a little girl). Her version has been considered very popular on talent shows.[26] "Without You" was later included on some non-U.S. pressings of her compilation album #1's (1998), and her 2001 compilation, Greatest Hits. "Without You" was also included on her 2008 compilation The Ballads.

Critical reception[edit]

David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called it a "by-the-numbers remake of Nilsson's melodramatic 1972 hit."[27] Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone called this song "likeliest contender" for ballads like "I Will Always Love You" and he praised "Carey dips into her lower register and is accompanied by backup singers (including herself) magnified to sound like a mighty gospel chorus."[28]

Chart performance[edit]

"Without You" reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining in the top 40 for 21 weeks and on the chart for 23. It reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and number 3 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales. It was certified gold by the RIAA and sold 600,000 copies domestically.[29][30] It was ranked 16 on the Hot 100 1994 year-end charts.

"Without You" remains Carey's biggest hit across Europe. It became her first UK number 1 single, and was her only number one there until Against All Odds, which was also a cover. It debuted at number 1 on the chart and stayed at number 1 for four weeks.[31] It was also her first chart-topper in Italy, but was most successful in Switzerland (with ten non-consecutive weeks at number 1) and the Netherlands (twelve weeks). It also topped the singles chart in Germany for four weeks and Austria for eight weeks, where Carey's success had previously been limited. It also topped the Swedish Singles Chart for eight weeks, was number 1 in Ireland for five weeks and in New Zealand for one week. It was able to make the top three in Canada, France, Norway and Australia. It was certified platinum in Australia by ARIA and in Germany and Austria by IFPI. It was also certified gold in New Zealand by RIANZ and in France by SNEP. The song is one of only two Carey singles certified Gold in the UK with sales of 470,000 copies.[32]

Mariah Carey 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 cover versions[edit]

Shirley Bassey covered the song twice, once for the album And I Love You So in 1972, and again in Spanish as "Sin Ti" for the 1989 album La Mujer. This Spanish version of the ballad has also been recorded by Paloma San Basilio. A different Spanish translation, "Desde el dia que te fuiste" ("From the Day You Went Away"), was a #1 hit for Pandora on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks in 1992.[79] This version was covered by operatic pop band Il Divo for the album Siempre, in 2006.

A version by Ham on the Golders Green album, released posthumously in 1999, contains Ham's original "if it's love, that you're needing" bridge, and is only 2:16 in length.[citation needed]

The song is often covered by TV talent show contestants. Valentina Hasan, a season two contestant of Music Idol, sang her own version in Engrish. Soon dubbed "Ken Lee" after her mispronunciation of "Can't Live," the video of Hasan's performance became a YouTube hit, parodied and remixed by many fans[80] as featured in Sign of the Times on ABC's Nightline in March 2009.[81]

Mina performed the song with Johnny Dorelli in the Italian translation, "Per chi" (1978), a version that has also been released by Gens.

In films 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 laments that a drunken rendition of this song may have alienated her from her handsome boss, Daniel Cleaver.

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

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'.

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.[82]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Nilsson version)
19 February 1972 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Heart of Gold" by Neil Young
Preceded by
"Hurting Each Other" by The Carpenters
Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single (Nilsson version)
19 February 1972 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Rock and Roll Lullaby" by BJ Thomas
Preceded by
"Son of my Father" by Chicory Tip
UK Singles Chart number-one single (Nilsson version)
11 March 1972 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Amazing Grace" by The Pipes & Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
Preceded by
"Things Can Only Get Better" by D:Ream
UK Singles Chart number-one single (Mariah Carey version)
13 February 1994 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Doop" by Doop