Harry Nilsson–Everybody’s Talkin’

In Midnight Cowboy, Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ provides the soundtrack to some of the most delightfully misleading opening scenes in film.  It’s a country-tinged trifle about going your own way and not letting anyone tell you otherwise.  Plastered over sunny images of Joe Buck (a brilliantly oblivious Jon Voight) burning bridges on the way out of his small town to the big city, the song  fills the air with possibility.  Nilsson croons Fred Neil’s lyrics: “I’m going where the weather suits my clothes.”.  It should be the height of optimism.  But in director John Schlesinger’s hands it becomes a warning.  Confident affirmations like the one in the song sound like a sure path to freedom. “Everybody’s talkin’ at me/I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’,” but maybe he should have listened to those voices.  The twinkling guitar and shuffling, soft drums are too confident to be believed.  Instead they become the accompaniment to a scene so bright that it can only melt into a nightmare.  Rarely has such an upbeat song clearly portended something this disastrous.  Of course, the irony didn’t prevent it from becoming a buoyant, feel-good classic.

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