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Love Hurts

Recorded/Published: 1990
Harry Nilsson recorded a duet of "Love Hurts" with Jimmy Webb. It is included in Webb's CD box set The Moon's A Harsh Mistress: Jimmy Webb in the Seventies.

In the liner notes for The Moon's A Harsh Mistress Peter Blackstock writes:

The essence of Jimmy Webb's artistry is exemplified in an unlikely place on this five-disc set, which collects all of his 1970's studio albums plus a 1972 live concert and an assortment of out-takes. It is the last of those out-takes, a duet with Harry Nilsson on Boudleaux & Felice Bryant's "Love Hurts," that reveals the truth.

Webb had recorded the classic ballad for his 1972 album Letters, then cut this subsequent take with Nilsson in London but decided not to use it. In the liner notes here, Webb explains he and Nilsson were "smashed out of our minds" when they cut the track, and confesses he nixed it because he felt Nilsson's vocal was too melodramatic: "Somewhat hypocritically perhaps, I felt he was too far gone."

Hypocritical, indeed - Webb's own vocals frequently push the bounds of emotional excess - but in a fascinatingly illustrative way. Listening to the two versions back-to-back, it's clear that Webb went for the "safe" choice - to the fundamental detriment of his art. Nilsson's performance is histrionic, certainly, but the passion makes all the difference. Webb's album version is smoother, sweeter, and, well, staid. Nilsson's contribution on the alternate track makes the music instantly more heartfelt, more memorable. "When I hear it now," Webb confesses, "sure it's a little over the top, but it really is Harry."

Jimmy Webb's solo version of "Love Hurts" (a classic song also recorded by The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Don McClean, and many others) appears on Webb's Letters album.


Songwriter: Boudleaux Bryant
Vocals: Harry Nilsson
Vocals: Jimmy Webb

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