The history behind Badfinger and one of the greatest, most dramatic love songs ever written and performed is a sad tale of the horrible, not very good music industry. In 1970, Badfinger released “Without You”, one year later, Harry Nilsson covered the song brilliantly which is nowadays probably the version most music fans think is the original. But then in 1994, Mariah Carey, diva and voice extrodinaire, sang a version that is THE VERSION and will forever be the greatest version of all.
Badfinger could have lived from the royalties till eternity but then some unfortunate lawsuits financial and managerial issues led to one of the members to commit suicide in 1975. 1983 another member committed suicide and at that point the band still couldn’t get all that sweet money whenever the song was on the radio or in a movie.
Now, the original is beautiful and has a completely different vibe than Mariah’s version which goes to show that a good song can change shape according to the artist and be amazing whatever you do with it (the best example for this is a weird reggae version of Britney Spear’s song “XY” which is better than it should be).
You can hear that Nilsson’s version was the one that Mariah was inspired by, a bit like everyone covers Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in the Jeff Buckley-version even though Cohen’s version is equally amazing but a little edgier. Nilsson is an amazing performer because he simply sounds authentic in all his emotions.
Say what you will about Mariah, this woman was an integral part of the sound of the 90s, next to Whitney, Toni Braxton and that’s it, sorry, those three were the trifecta of “I can’t believe their voices”.
And even though aspiring singers would take the wrong cues from her dramatic performances (those runs, all those runs on “American Idol” were always unnecessary), she created a (back then) modern version that brought a little more church choir into the mix which is never a wrong thing (give me a gospel background choir anyday, anytime, anywhere).