This was originally recorded by Badfinger
in 1970, and appeared on their second album, No Dice
. Nilsson wrote most of the songs he recorded, and many listeners assumed that this gut-wrenching ballad was also one of his compositions.
Badfinger members Peter Ham and Tom Evans wrote this. Ham had written a song called "Is This Love?," but wasn't happy with the chorus. Evans came up with the "I cant' live if living is without you" chorus, but had no verses for it, so they put the two songs together as one. (thanks, Tom - Mishawaka, IN)
Nilsson first came across this song at a Laurel Canyon party in 1971 and thought it was a Beatles song. Badfinger was signed to Apple Records, The Beatles' label. The story did not end well for Badfinger: Both Ham and Evans became despondent when they encountered various legal difficulties and committed suicide. Ham hanged himself in 1975 and Evans did the same in 1983.
Nilsson's version added an orchestra and gave the song a dramatic production. When Nilsson recorded it, he initially played the song slow and dark, accompanied only by piano. Producer Richard Perry recalled to Mojo magazine April 2008 that he had to persuade an unwilling Nilsson to record it as a big ballad: "I had to force him to take a shot with the rhythm section. Even while we were doing it, he'd be saying to the musicians, 'This song's awful.'"
Mariah Carey's version debuted at #1 in the UK in 1994 and hit #3 in the US. Nilsson died of heart failure on January 15, 1994 - the same day Carey's version was released in the US. Later in 1994, Nilsson's version was reissued to take advantage of the renewed interest.
This won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal in 1973.
The soft rock group Air Supply did a popular cover of this song in 1991.
January 15th is a date with some interesting coincidences where Nilsson's version of this song is concerned. He died on January 15, 1994, the same day Mariah Carey's version was released, which is also 22 years to the day after his interpretation of "Without You" hit #1 on the US charts. (thanks, renee - bloomington, MN)
This song was featured in a 2016 commercial for Heinz that first aired during the Super Bowl. In the spot, a pack of dachshunds dressed like hot dogs run toward a group of humans dressed as ketchup, mustard, and other sauces.