Let’s Talk about the Song First
The song in question is “Without You,” written by Tom Evans and Pete Ham from Badfinger, a British rock group. It was first released on the group’s album No Dice in 1970. Geoff Emerick produced the song. More than 180 artists have recorded the stunning power balled, and numerous versions of the song were also released in the coming years. Single by Mariah Carey in 1994, as well as Harry Nilsson in 1971, turned out to be international best-sellers.
In 1972, songwriters Evans and Ham were rewarded the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for the Best Song Musically and Lyrically. Paul McCartney called the ballad “the killer song of all time”. Isn’t it a little creepy how it indeed turned out to be a killer song? The lyrics go something like, “I can’t live if living is without you”, and it was indeed the suicide of Ham that later became one of the believed reasons, among others, behind Evans’ suicide.
Knowing the Song a Bit More
Pete Ham composed the verse of the song, originally titled “If It’s Love”. However, the original title lacked a powerful chorus. Tom Evans came up with a chorus but without any strong verse. Hence, the duo decided on fusing the two parts. In this ballad, the protagonist wants their lover to know that the protagonist can’t survive without the lover. The recording of the ballad by Badfinger is more brusque as compared to its successive versions. It had languished like any obscure album song until Harry Nilsson noticed it a year later.
“Without You” turned out to be a hit single when Nilsson covered it for Nilsson Schmilsson, his album released in 1971. From the 13th of February to the 11th of March in 1972, Nilsson’s version of the track remained at the number one position for four weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was replaced by “Without You”, and later, the track got replaced by “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young. Mariah Carrey came up with her version of the song in her album Music Box, released in 1993.
As mentioned earlier, both Evans and Ham died of suicide, Ham on the 24th of April 1975 and Evans on the 19th of November, 1983. While people say the suicides were not related, some do believe Evans’ decision of taking his life was somehow influenced by the same decision taken by Ham almost a decade earlier.
Mariah Carey’s Version
Mariah Carey’s cover of “Without You” was co-produced by Walter Afanasieff. Harry Nilsson’s version of the song became the basis of the production. At the beginning of 1994, the song saw the light of the day as the third single in Carey’s album. In the United States, it was released on the 24th of January 1994. In the United States, the track had its promotion as a double ‘A’ side and the song “Never Forget You”. On Billboard Hot 100, it got to number three. For as many as twenty-one weeks, the song remained in the top forty. Both sales, as well as radio airplay, were strong. The RIAA was certified it gold. On the year-end charts of the Hot 100, it was at number sixteen in 1994.
Tom Evans and His Musical Journey
Thomas Evans Jr., popularly known as Tom Evans, was a British songwriter and musician, most remembered for his work with Badfinger, the band. The band was originally called The Iveys. In July 1967, Dave Jenkins, Mike Gibbins, Ron Griffiths, and Pete Ham (The Iveys) went to Liverpool as suggested by Bill Collins, their manager, for recruiting a replacement for their frontman and rhythm guitarist, Dave Jenkins.
Tom Evans was discovered while singing with Them Calderstones. He was invited to London by The Iveys for an audition for the band. Evans eventually accepted the offer and became a part of The Iveys in August of 1967. It was on the 20th of August of the same year when he got his first gig with the band at the Starlite Ballroom of Crawley.
The Band and its Work
It was in November 1969 when the band changed their name from The Iveys to Badfinger. Paul McCartney from the Beatles gave the band a boost by giving them his track “Come and Get It”. It was a song he produced for Badfinger. The movie The Magic Christian, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Star, made its featured track. McCartney chose Evans for singing lead on this song. It reached the list of Top 10 all across the globe.
The ‘B’ Side, Rock of All Ages, was co-written by Evans with Mike Gibbins and Pete Ham, and it features Tom Evans singing the lead. It was also produced by Paul McCartney, who also ended up singing the scratch vocals with Tom Evans on the basic song. “Carry on Till Tomorrow”, another piece from The Magic Christian, was co-written by Ham and Evans.
Tom Evans’ Suicide
In 1983, Tom Evans got into a dispute with Joey Molland, a former band-mate, over royalties of the track “Without You.” The conflict ended up in Evans hanging himself to death in his garden. He is survived by his wife Marianne and a son, Stephan. In 1993, a compilation of song recordings created in the early 1980s by Tom Evans and his musician pal Rod Roach got posthumously released in the United Kingdom under the title ‘Over You’ (The Final Tracks) on Gipsy Records. Many Tom Evans fans claim that the emotional scar that Pete Ham’s suicide left on the Badfinger band eventually caused Evans’s suicide.
Pete Ham and His Musical Journey
Peter William Ham, better known as Pete Ham, was a Welsh songwriter, guitarist, and singer, best known as the composer and lead vocalist of Badfinger, the rock band of the 1970s. The hit songs of the band include “Baby Blue”, “Day After Day”, “No Matter What”, and so on. As mentioned above, he was the co-writer of “Without You”, a ballad that became a number-one hit across the globe for Harry Nilsson, and hundreds of artists have covered the song. In 1973, he bagged two Ivor Novello Awards for this song. (See 10 Hottest Male Country Singers)
Pete Ham’s Suicide
In the year 1975, Pete Hams died of suicide at the age of 27. He got depressed after embroiling in band-related problems, such as management and label issues, along with a lack of funds. Stan Polley, the business manager of Badfinger, was sued by Warner Bros. after an advance disappeared. Then, Polly vanished, leaving the band penniless.
Ham, believing his finances were gone, hanged himself inside his garage just three days before his 28th birthday. Ham left a note for his pregnant girlfriend and her child that he loved them. The note stated, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better. Pete. PS Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” Ham is often regarded as among the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre.
Collections of his home demo recordings got posthumously released in 7 Park Avenue (1997), Golders Green (1999), and The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67 (2013). On the 27th of April 2013, Swansea City Council unveiled an official blue plaque for honouring Pete in his hometown.