Was Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little” First Recorded Only as a Christmas Present?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me A Little” was first recorded by Harry Nilsson…as a Christmas present!

For years, fans of Harry Nilsson were wondering what exactly the deal was with Harry’s version of “Marry Me A Little” from late 1969.

The song is a great little song that was not used for Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical (SIX Tonys, including Best Musical and FIVE Drama Desk awards, including Best Music and Lyrics), Company, in 1970.

Company is about a single man in his mid-30s dealing with the single life when all his friends are either married or on their way.

The song, Marry Me A Little features this man (Bobby) wondering about marriage (as you can tell by the title, he is conflicted about it)…

Here’s a verse…

Marry me a little,
Love me just enough.
Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough.
Keep a tender distance
so we’ll both be free.
That’s the way it ought to be.
I’m ready!

(HINT: He’s not really ready).

In any event, Sondheim cut the song from the show, but it was well-liked enough to be the highlight (and title track) of an Off-Broadway Musical from the early 1980s consisting only of songs Sondheim cut from his musicals…

Eventually, the 2006 revival of Company (which, again, won a bunch of Tony Awards, including Best Revival and Best Actor for the fellow who played Bobby, the great Raul Esparza) worked the song into the musical…

But in 1969, the song was still unpublished, unreleased and unrecorded – until Nilsson’s version of the song popped up on the ol’ black market. The copies of the song were not the strongest quality in the world, and Nilsson oddly enough had added a lyric, mentioning a woman “Judy” at the end of the tune (also mentioning Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year).

So what’s the deal?
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Was Harry Nilsson’s Coffin Lost During an Earthquake?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Harry Nilsson’s coffin was lost during an earthquake

Harry Nilsson (he usually went by just Nilsson as a performer) was an acclaimed American singer and songwriter, with his most famous songs (either as a performer or as a songwriter or as both) probably being “Everybody’s Talkin'” (as in the theme song to Midnight Cowboy), “Without You” (as in “I can’t liiiiive if living is without you”), “Coconut” (as in “you put the lime in the coconut”) and “One” (as in “one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know”).

However great Nilsson was, he most likely did not have the career, popularity-wise, that his talent “deserved” and was actually in rough financial straits (at least partially due to a crooked financial advisor who ended up going to prison for what she did to Nilsson’s finances) when he had a heart attack in 1993.

He was pushing RCA to put out a box set of his music, and he was just finishing up a new album (which I don’t believe has ever been released) when he died of heart failure in 1994 at the age of 54.

Let’s leave Nilsson for a moment and turn to our next player in this story.

Marianne Faithfull burst on to the scene in 1964 with a song penned by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Andrew Loog Oldham (the Rolling Stones’ manager) called “As Tears Go By.”

Soon Faithfull was involved in a much-publicized romance with Jagger, which lasted until 1970.

By the time she split with Jagger, Faithfull was heavily addicted to drugs, specifically cocaine.

During the 70s, while her singing career was in ruins, she developed a bout of laryngitis that, coupled with her constant drug abuse, rendered her once soprano voice to practically a complete 180 degree turn, and she is now a gravelly Deep contralto, but she is an acclaimed musician nowadays, despite her gruff voice.

Why do I bring Faithfull up?

Well, during the mid to late 90s, a story began circulating that an earthquake had taken place in Los Angeles after Nilsson’s death, and that his coffin had actually fallen from the funeral home into a crevice and was lost. So that when his funeral burial took place, they basically buried an empty coffin (as a replacement for the lost one).

Sounds absurd, right? But is it absurd and true?

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