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"Gotta Get Up" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson and the opening track from his 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. It was first released as the B-side to his single "Without You". "Gotta Get Up" is an upbeat pop song with a music hall feeling[1] and lyrics about transitioning from carefree youth to adult responsibility. Nilsson based the lyrics on his experiences working at a bank and on his parents.

"Gotta Get Up"
Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson Side-B US vinyl.png
Side B of the "Without You" US vinyl single
Song by Nilsson
from the album Nilsson Schmilsson
A-side"Without You"
ReleasedOctober 11, 1971
Format7-inch vinyl
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Harry Nilsson
Producer(s)Richard Perry
Music video
"Gotta Get Up" on YouTube


Nilsson, 1974

"Gotta Get Up" is about the transition from carefree youth to adult responsibility. The song was originally attempted in March 1968 as a potential track for Nilsson's Aerial Ballet (1968) or Harry (1969). This earlier version of the song is cheerier and more uptempo than the recording that was released on Nilsson Schmilsson. The remake takes on a more serious tone and features an aleatoric crescendo at the end. Producer Richard Perry said that the addition was inspired by the number of takes devoted to the song: "We had to do so many takes that we got cabin fever and started messing around, and Harry decided to incorporate the craziness in the song."[2]

Nilsson biographer Alyn Shipton suggests that portions of the song are based on Nilsson's former dayjob as a computer programmer at a bank, while other portions are written from the point of view of his parents.[2] Part of the lyrics mention a woman who knew a military sailor that "would pound her for a couple of days, and then he'd sail across the bubbly waves, and those were happier days."[3] According to Pitchfork writer Mike Powell, the lyric demonstrate Nilsson's "intelligence as a writer ... The Nilsson-ness is in the phrase pound her-- a contrast between sweet nostalgia and unsentimental truth."[3]

AllMusic reviewer Matthew Greenwalk said that the lyrics illustrate a "dread of aging and facing responsibility" as Nilsson describes waking up after a wild party and "having to get on with reality – grudgingly."[1] Aisha Harris of The New York Times wrote that the song's "bright, infectious instrumentation belies melancholy, wistful lyrics about growing older."[4]


On October 11, 1971, "Gotta Get Up" was released as the B-side to Nilsson's single "Without You", a Badfinger cover that reached number one on the Billboard Pop and Adult Contemporary singles charts. Both songs were included on Nilsson Schmilsson, released one month later.[citation needed]

Russian DollEdit

In 2019, "Gotta Get Up" was prominently featured as the "reset" song in the Netflix series Russian Doll. The song plays each time the series’ protagonist Nadia (co-creator Natasha Lyonne) dies and returns to the same location – a bathroom at her 36th birthday party.[4][5] Its use is similar to that of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" from the 1993 film Groundhog Day.[4][6] Lyonne explained that in choosing the song she was struck by the "buoyant doomsday quality" of Nilsson's life.[4] The cost of using the song so many times took up a significant portion of the music budget. His estate also limited how many times the song could be used.[4]

"Gotta Get Up" experienced a surge in streams and searches after the series was released on February 1, 2019.[7] Spotify saw a 3,300 percent increase in streams in the U.S. after the first week of the show's release.[8] Nielsen SoundScan reported a 2,466 percent increase from 8,000 plays (with few downloads sold) to 216,000 plays (with 1,000 downloads sold).[6]


According to the 1971 LP credits:[9]

Use in mediaEdit

Cover versionsEdit

  • 1977: Davy Jones & Micky Dolenz, The Point – Original Cast Recording
  • 2014: Annie Nilsson, This Is the Town – A Tribute to Nilsson Volume 1
  • 2016: Ty Segall


  1. ^ a b c d Greenwald, Matthew. "Gotta Get Up – Harry Nilsson | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Shipton, Alyn (2013). Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter. Oxford University Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-19-933069-0.
  3. ^ a b Powell, Mike (April 11, 2012). "L.A. Weirdos". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Harris, Aisha (February 1, 2019). "This Is That Song From 'Russian Doll'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  5. ^ McCormick, Neil (February 6, 2019). "Gotta Get Up: why the Russian Doll song has everybody talking about Harry Nilsson". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Zellner, Xander (February 22, 2019). "Harry Nilsson's 'Gotta Get Up' Surges 2,466% in Streams After 'Russian Doll' Premiere". MSN. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  7. ^ "What's the song in Russian Doll that keeps playing?". NME. February 4, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Nadia Dies. Nadia Lives. 'Gotta Get Up' Plays. Users Repeat". Spotify. February 21, 2019. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  9. ^ Nilsson Schmilsson (CD booklet: reproduced 1971 LP sleeve). Harry Nilsson. BMG Entertainment. 2000.CS1 maint: others (link)

External linksEdit