This was featured in Midnight Cowboy, a 1969 movie about a male prostitute in New York City starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie's dad). Although it is the most memorable and popular song from the film, the film's actual title song is "Midnight Cowboy Theme," which is a haunting instrumental written by prolific song writer John Barry, who has done numerous soundtracks. You will recognize the theme by the lonely harmonica which serves as the main instrument. There are lyrics, though the song has rarely been recorded as a vocal.
Midnight Cowboy is the only movie rated X or NC-17 to win an Oscar for Best Picture. (thanks, Bobby G - Boston, MA)
Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" was written for Midnight Cowboy, but this was used instead.
The folk singer Fred Neil wrote this song and released it on his 1967 self-titled album, which was the first one where he used electric instruments. Neil was a very influential singer who made a name for himself playing Greenwich Village clubs with people like John Sebastian, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills. He pretty much disappeared around 1971, resurfacing every now and then for various events. He had a small, but dedicated group of fans and looked like he was on his way to stardom, but apparently that was never his goal. Neil died in his Florida home in 2001.
This song won Nilsson the Grammy award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male.
Nilsson originally issued this song as a single in 1968, it was pulled, and released a year later when the movie came out.
Fred Neil released his version of the song as a single in 1968, but it didn't do very well. Shortly after Midnight Cowboy came out, Neil's version was re-released along with the album.
In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, when Lt. Dan says, "I'm walking here!" to the cab that almost hits him, this song is playing in the background. It's a nod to a similar scene in Midnight Cowboy. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the TV series Star Trek, did a very interesting cover version for his 1970 album The New World Of Leonard Nimoy.
This was one of the first songs Phil Ramone engineered at the 7th Avenue studio in New York City that he purchased from Columbia Records. He would later record Billy Joel, Dionne Warwick, Paul Simon and many others there.