Tim Hardin

TrackAlbum
Reason To BelieveTim Hardin 1
How Can We Hang On To A DreamTim Hardin 1
If I Were A CarpenterTim Hardin 2
The Lady Came From BaltimoreTim Hardin 2
First Love SongSuite For Susan Moore And Damion
Last Sweet MomentsSuite For Susan Moore And Damion
Bird On A Wire (L .Cohen)Bird On A Wire
I'll Be Home (R. Newman)Painted Head
Never Too FarNine
Lenny’'s TuneWhy Did Lenny Bruce Die?

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Contributor: Kasper Nijsen

‘And why, after every last shot, was there always another?’ asked folksinger Tim Hardin in 1966 in a tormented eulogy for Lenny Bruce. ‘I’ve lost a friend and I don’t know why,’ he sang, with barely repressed bitterness and grief. Now we know that Lenny’s Tune tells the story of Hardin’s life as well. Like Lenny Bruce, Hardin died around the age of 40 from a heroin overdose. Lenny’s Tune is a harrowing tribute from one great artist and addict to another.

Most people will know Tim Hardin (1941-1980) from cover versions of his songs, including Rod Stewart’s Reason To Believe, Johnny Cash’s If I Were A Carpenter, and The Lady Came From Baltimore by Bobby Darin, Scott Walker, Bob Dylan and many others. Yet his own string of albums from the late 60s and early 70s show that he was a strong singer in his own right – quite apart from his songwriting skills.

Those new to Tim Hardin might wish to seek out his first two albums, Tim Hardin I (1966) and Tim Hardin 2 (1967), which contain many of his famous songs. Typically, his tunes are concise folk melodies, often barely over two minutes long, where the quiet surface belies a great depth of feeling. Hardin’s voice is warm and soulful, and unafraid to show his insecurity and pain. In its intimacy, his singing is reminiscent of the recordings of the late Nick Drake cut around the same time.

The jazz-inflected piano ballad, How Can I Hang On To A Dream, is a great example of Hardin’s art. It’s a masterfully understated vocal with a deceptively simple minor-key progression. In all, the song lasts just about two minutes. Yet there’s more emotional honesty and beauty here than many songwriters achieve in a lifetime of recordings.

As the titles of his albums evolved, so did the music. The cumbersomely titled Suite For Susan Moore And Damion: We Are One, One, All in One (1970) is an ambitious concept album that includes spoken word experiments. It also contains one of his best vocal performances; accompanied only by electric guitar, First Love Song is almost painful in its raw beauty.

It’s perhaps only matched by Hardin’s singing on Bird On A Wire, the title track of his subsequent album. Raising the original by almost an octave, Hardin’s vocal carries Leonard Cohen’s song from a tender, intimate ballad in the verses through a soulful, hair-raising cry on the choruses and finally, the backing choir stepping in, to an almost religious finale.

But after every last shot there was always another, and in the seventies things clearly began to go downhill with Tim Hardin. He now belongs with those sixties singer-songwriters who, for one reason or another, passed away long before their time: Tim Hardin, Phil Ochs, Nick Drake, Richard Manuel, Tim Buckley, Jackson C. Frank, Sandy Denny, Harry Chapin, to name a few. Yet Hardin’s recordings are there to be rediscovered. If Nick Drake clearly deserved the posthumous surge of interest, Tim Hardin’s music is still waiting for a well-earned revival.

Tim Hardin biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #111

3 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Oct 30, 2013

    I read the December 2013 Uncut with morning tea today, to see “Tim Hardin 1” was at the head of their “50 Greatest Singer-Songwriter Albums” which means great minds think alike, because I then turned to Toppermost! Actually, Mojo does show that Toppermost’s alphabetical or chronological order is best, because immediately you see “1” against Tim Hardin (and 2 against Songs From A Room) you think gradation is silly, because however good he is, he’s not in the Big Three (Dylan, Simon, Cohen). I think of him as a songwriter foremost, and songs like If I Were A Carpenter are what songwriters call a pension, because it was on so many major artist albums, and a song has to be robust to embrace the Bobby Darin hit, The Four Tops radically reworked hit, and 1967’s “Joan” where Joan Baez shifts it to “If You Were A Carpenter,’ then go on to the Johnny Cash/June Carter hit. The song works as a gentle folk song, a pop song or a Motown classic. Simple Song Of Freedom is the one I’d add, because there’s interest back and forth; Darin had two big hits with Hardin songs. Hardin then got his Top 50 US hit with a Darin song.

  2. Kasper Nijsen
    Oct 30, 2013

    Interesting coincidence! Of course I’m running to the stores to get that magazine in a minute… Simple Song of Freedom was in fact my eleventh pick and should maybe replace the Randy Newman cover (though his singing was really strong at the time he recorded that one). And I agree Hardin cannot be ranked alongside Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, if only because his output was so limited. That being said, I do prefer his cover of Bird on a Wire to the original.

  3. Roger Woods
    Mar 4, 2014

    There’s not too much to choose from when selecting a toppermost for Tim Hardin. An enormously troubled soul his output was constrained by heroin abuse from teenage days. I’ve always thought his path through life has overtones of the life of Richard Manuel, the majestic singer and piano player from The Band.
    Unlike Peter I think of him very much as a singer/songwriter. His voice matches perfectly the material he wrote. And what material. The Lady Came From Baltimore will be one of my desert island discs.
    Here’s a great website for those who want to know more about Tim Hardin. Andy Gill has described him as ‘by all accounts, an unpleasant man blessed with enviably beautiful gifts’. I’m happy with that and the music.

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