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.
Hardin moved to the East Coast in the early 1960s after leaving the
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),
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),
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
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
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