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Tim Hardin (1941-1980)

Born Eugene, Oregon, 1941; died 1980 in Los Angeles. With his sobbing voice and introspective, almost reticent compositions, Tim Hardin was one of the more memorable singer-songwriters of his day. A cult figure who never really broke through to a wide following, he is now chiefly remembered via cover versions of his best songs, especially "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Reason To Believe". His failure to become renowned for performing his own work is mainly attributable to his heroin habit, which helped cripple his career after a couple of promising albums in the late 1960s.

Tim Hardin

Hardin moved to the East Coast in the early 1960s after leaving the marines, doing time in the folk scenes of Greenwich Village and Boston. While he was based in Boston, he was contacted by producer Erik Jacobsen (most famous for handling Lovin' Spoonful) to do some demos for Columbia. Hardin was pretty much a white blues singer at this point, with a repertoire dominated by blues covers and thinly veiled rewrites of blues standards. He claimed in one interview (probably falsely) that 'I'm a better singer than Ray Charles, and Ray Charles told me so.' In fact, not only were blues and R&B not really his forte, but fellow Greenwich folkie Fred Neil (with whom the higher-voiced Hardin shared some similarities) did blues-folk substantially better, as the many derivative early demo tracks demonstrate.

However, by the time Hardin debuted on Verve with Tim Hardin 1 (1966), he'd found a more pop-folk songwriting voice. His backing band included Lovin' Spoonful leader John Sebastian on harmonica and jazzman Gary Burton on vibes, but Hardin claimed to be so upset by the strings that were overdubbed on some tracks without his consent that he cried when he first heard them. Still, it was a strong set with a tender low-key, confessional tone, and contained some of his best compositions, such as "Misty Roses", "How Can We Hang On To A Dream", and especially "Reason To Believe", which became something of a signature tune.

Strings also occasionally graced Hardin's next LP, Tim Hardin 2 (1967), in a more subtle fashion. Another solid collection in much the same vein as the debut, it contained perhaps his most famous song, "If I Were A Carpenter", which was taken into the US Top 10 in a faithful cover version by Bobby Darin.

These two albums, sadly, represented the apex of Tim's career; almost all of his best work is contained on them, although he would live another dozen years. Heroin problems and general irresponsibility often made him miss shows or perform poorly; he suffered from pleurisy in 1968, and a tour of England the same year had to be cancelled when he fell asleep on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after dismissing his backing group in front of the audience. The live Tim Hardin 3 (1968) was a decent set with jazzy backing musicians that introduced some new material along with reprises of previously recorded favourites. But Hardin didn't record another set of fresh songs in the 60s, although he did perform at Woodstock, where he lived for a while (his performance, however, didn't make it on to the film of the event).

Hardin did record a few albums in the early 1970s that were not without bright moments; but, whether due to dope or other factors, his muse seems to have withered; the 1973 record Painted Head didn't even contain a single original composition. Tim Hardin 9 (also 1973) was his last LP; after years of bouncing around England and the West Coast and fighting health and psychological problems, he died in Los Angeles in 1980 at age 39.

This biography courtesy of The Rough Guide To Rock

Probably the last photo of Tim Hardin with commenetary

See also Tim Hardin