The Original vs. The Cover vs. The Cover – “Without You”

This version of The Original vs. The Cover is going to be 3 songs. The song is the classic “Without You” and we will kick it off with the original by the band Badfinger. Now, I have to admit, I thought the original was by Harry Nilsson and didn’t realize his was a cover. So, Harry is up next. Lastly, we will throw in one of the most successful covers by the great Mariah Carey. The song was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans from the band Badfinger.

Pete Ham was originally writing a song called “If It’s Love”, but the song didn’t have a good chorus. When he was getting ready to leave the studio one day, Tom Evans stopped him and said he had an idea for a song. Peter was supposed to go out with his girlfriend, well his girlfriend knew him well and knew he would not be able to focus so she made him stay behind. Tom was working on a song with the chorus “Can’t live if living is without you”. The two parts were like chocolate and peanut butter. Apart they are good, but together they are perfect. The two didn’t think much of the song but apparently it has now been covered by over 180 artist.

On a side note and after effect of the song, Both Ham and Evans later committed suicide due to legal and financial reasons. Evans reason for the suicide seemed to be related to the royalties on this song which makes it a pretty sad tale.

BADFINGER

The Badfinger song came out on November 9, 1970 and was on their album ‘No Dice’. It is was a guitar ballad and had some heavy bass and both electric and acoustical accompaniment. Ham and Evans both take on lead vocal duties. It has that classic 60’s/70’s rock vibe to it and there is a punch to as the song progresses. There is a yearning to the vocals and you can feel the pain of that broken heart. It is a rather effective song and why I wasn’t overly familiar with it before I have no idea.

HARRY NILSSON

Harry Nilsson covered the song a year later on his 1971 album ‘Nilsson Schmilsson’. The song was released on October 11, 1971 and the song went all the way to #1 on Billboard Charts. Harry’s version turns the song in to a piano ballad giving it it an airy atmostpheric feel. The bass groove that lies just behind the lyrics is impactful and soulful. And when the chorus explodes it is so much more dramatic and he owns the pain and sorrow in those vocals. It is almost cathartic and you know he feels better after singing it. The song might be even more effective than the original and he even shaved a minute off the song. Harry truly owns this one and has probably the most recognizable version…at least for 20+ years.

MARIAH CAREY

Then on January 24, 1994, Mariah Carey releases her version of the song from her 1994 album ‘Music Box’. A whole new generation would now be introduced to the song which only went to #3 on the Billboard Charts. Mariah’s version is based off Harry’s as it is mostly a biting piano song with some heavy, heavy bass added to it. Almost too much bass. Her vocals soar and hit notes that Harry would only dream of, however, her vocals, though beautiful, don’t capture the emotion of the song. I feel she is singing it, but not feeling it.

THE VERDICT

Based on the above, I am torn between Badfinger’s version and Harry Nilsson’s version. As I said Mariah, she sings it beautifully but she doesn’t feel the song. And if I am basing on who “feels” the song and makes it believable, I guess I would go with Harry Nilsson’s version. He truly owned it and made it his own. Changing it to a piano based song really turned up the feels and you believed he felt the pain and sorrow of those lyrics. Badfinger is a very close second as I do love the guitar and bass work on the original. I hate they didn’t get the recognition they truly deserved for creating such a beautiful and powerful song.

I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs.  Let me know which version you like the best and why.  Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

LYRICS:

“Without You”

Well, I can’t forget this evening
And your face when you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile, but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

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
What you should know

[CHORUS:]
I can’t live, if living is without you
I can’t live, I can’t give anymore
I can’t live, if living is without you
I can’t live, I can’t give anymore

Well, I can’t forget this evening
And your face when you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile, but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

[guitar solo]

[CHORUS x3]

I can’t live, if living is without you.

35 thoughts on “The Original vs. The Cover vs. The Cover – “Without You”

  1. Easy choice for me. Nilsson’s version all the way. It was the first one I (or pretty much anybody) heard and it was a pretty big hit. Great tune and it’s the kind of version after which there is really no point in anybody else covering it. The whole Badfinger story is tragic and I wrote about t way back when I started blogging and there were like, two people following my blog. In fact, of the people who commented at that time, only one is still following my blog. Here ’tis

    Badfinger – A Rock n’ Roll Tragedy

    Liked by 3 people

      1. A mostly under-the-radar band except to us music wonks. And yes, the ultimate “ripped off by the music industry” story. Music is great; the music industry, not so much.

        Like

  2. This one is hard. Badfinger’s original version has a cool bluesy vibe to it and Nilsson turned it into an epic lush song.
    I liked how he completely reimagined the song.
    I would vote Nilsson just because his voice is so great…but it depends on what mood I’m in. Carey’s is not in the running for me.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m glad you picked these…personally I didn’t think anyone would think a lot of Badfingers because it’s so different…but after reading the comments…they seemed to like it.

        Like

  3. I like the Badfinger version and I have a bit of loyalty to them because of what happened regards the royalties and how it affected them. But the Nilsson version definitely improves the song by giving it a bit more depth and emotion.
    As for Mariah Carey – I’m not much of a fan of her style of music other then THAT Christmas song – but I always remember raging at the TV when she said in an interview “Thanks so much Harry Nilsson for giving me that song to sing!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had no idea about the Badfinger story and now I’ll never be able to look at the song the same way again. I think the piano was a nice touch for “Without You” because it sounds more heartfelt and I like Harry’s peaceful voice. Also, for nostalgia, James Durbin was crying the first time he heard this version when he was on ‘American Idol.’ He cried during his performance too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to concur with everything you wrote in your verdict. Badfinger’s version gives a good account of the band but Harry Nilson just takes it miles further so I vote Harry. As for Marian, I can’t deny she’s got a great voice but there’s no oomph in her version.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a Nilsson fan on this one. I’d love to hear Lewis Capaldi cover this classic. Such a talented kid. Singer, songwriter. He’s the new generation. He’s a powerful belter of sad ballads. THIS is what he does.

    Liked by 1 person

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