A Reason to Believe
in Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin 1968


Tim Hardin 1979

      Ian Sharrock reflects on his memories and recounts the sad story of Tim Hardin's life
      It was the fag end of the summer of '66 when a sharp-suited singer walked 
      onto my TV screen and sang "If I Were A Carpenter". I just couldn't 
      believe that Bobby Darin, hitherto famous for songs such as "Mack The 
      Knife" and "Multiplication", was singing what I presumed to be a 
      beautifully arranged traditional folk song, in the same vein as "The 
      Raggle Taggle Gypsy" or "Black Jack Davey". I set out the following day in 
      search of the album, which I found in a local record shop, then dashed 
      home to persuade my mother to go into the shop on my behalf - I just 
      couldn't bear to be seen buying a Bobby Darin record. The album was a real 
      gem - the track listing boasting several Tim Hardin songs (a name I hadn't 
      previously heard). Each of the songs was a mini-masterpiece. I don't think 
      any of the songs lasted more than two and a half minutes, but that was it, 
      I was hooked. 

      Tim Hardin was born in Eugene, Oregon on December 23rd 1941. His parents 
      Molly and Hal had both been musicians: his mother had once had a career in 
      classical music, his father at one played bass. Tim spent a great deal of 
      time during his formative years under the strict supervision of his 
      maternal grandmother who went by the wonderful name of Manner Small. Tim 
      had known from the outset that he wasn't like the rest of the boys in the 
      small lumber town. He wanted to act and to sing. When he eventually left 
      Eugene, it was to join the Marines, not one would say, the most direct 
      route to an acting or singing career. He was shipped out east and came 
      back, like many of his fellow soldiers nursing a deadly heroin habit.
      Leaving the Marines in 1961 he returned briefly to Eugene, before moving 
      to Greenwich Village, where he was enrolled at the rather grand sounding 
      American Academy of Dramatic Art. In the village he met Karen Dalton (who 
      is curiously in the position of gaining posthumous fame through the 
      re-release of her second album It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love 
      You The Best on Megaphone) and Richard Tucker, and it was almost certainly 
      their influence that encouraged him to think more seriously about his 
      He was dismissed from the Academy after skipping too many classes, and 
      re-merged in Boston around 1963, where he received a call from Erik 
      Jacobsen, a one-time banjo-playing folkie (and more recently producer of 
      Chris Isaak). Jacobsen invited Tim down to New York to work on some songs. 
      Tim moved back to Greenwich Village in 1964 and through Jacobsen, he 
      gained an audition at Columbia Records. He was still on heroin and heavily 
      into marijuana, and the resulting sessions were a nightmare. Columbia 
      passed on him, But Jacobsen's faith was unshaken. Eventually, Tim was 
      placed with the partnership of Koppelman and Don Rubin, who were at that 
      time working jointly on the Lovin' Spoonful. They found a home for Tim on 
      the Verve-Forecast label, a division of MGM and Tim's first single, "How 
      Can We Hang On To A Dream?" was issued in February 1966.

      His first album Tim Hardin 1 was released in the summer of 1966, by which 
      time he had married Susan Moehr - who was to be his muse for some of his 
      finest love songs. None of Tim's albums sold well. He had a cult following 
      that probably accounted for sales of between ten and fifty thousand per 
      album. Even so the first album and its innovatively named follow-up, Tim 
      Hardin 2, were two of the best albums of the 60's, influencing many 
      artists, from those who covered his songs, Johnny Cash, The Small Faces, 
      Waylon Jennings, Scott Walker and Bobby Darin (who threw away his toupee) 
      to those artists such as Nick Drake, Astral Weeks-period Van Morrison, and 
      latterly Ron Sexsmith who were influenced by him. When Ron Sexsmith was 
      asked by his record producer to give some kind of reference as to how he 
      wanted his debut album to sound like he told him to listen to the first 
      two Tim Hardin albums.

      In 1969 Hardin arrived in England to take what was then known as the 
      "sleep cure" for heroin addiction. This involved the use of barbiturates 
      to get over the initial withdrawal stage from heroin, sadly, Tim emerged 
      from the "cure" addicted to barbiturates.

      Back once more in the States, Tim was living in Woodstock, where he 
      recorded a highly personal and confessional Suite for Susan Moore and 
      Damion - We Are-One, One, All In One. There were no songs on this album 
      for Bobby Darin to cover, but, in a strange reversal of fate, Tim covered 
      Darin's "Simple Song Of Freedom" and it gave him his only "Hot 100" hit. 
      Shortly after, his life in Woodstock took a downward turn when Susan left 
      him. He then recorded his second album for Columbia: Bird On A Wire. 
      Although there were few self-penned songs, for me, this was his finest 
      moment. He makes Leonard Cohen's much-covered "Bird On A Wire" his own, 
      with an impassioned vocal performance, and the entry of the choir just 
      before the end, although potentially tacky, is one of his greatest moments 
      on record. Hardin's version of the traditional song "Moonshiner" matches 
      even Dylan's version and standards such as "Georgia On My Mind" are sang 
      with real feeling in his voice. The strands of his varied life and musical 
      influences, plus his fine vocal technique all come together and, with the 
      sympathetic backing of jazz luminaries, like Joe Zawinul, the tracks were 
      imbued with the depth of sweet melancholy that I had never before 
      experienced. It was rather like pressing your tongue to a bad tooth - both 
      painful, yet irresistible.

      Tim, still in Woodstock, felt trapped. He had lost his driving licence and 
      even though he had given up heroin again, he was drinking heavily, and 
      like most alcoholics and substance abusers, Tim lost touch with his 
      feelings, and hence his songs. He made one last record for Columbia 
      Painted Head, which although a good workman-like album did not contain one 
      original song.
      Tim left Woodstock and went to England again, where as a registered 
      addict, he could receive his heroin on the National Health. Whilst in 
      London he and Susan had a brief reconciliation, but he lost her again and 
      lost his songs too, by signing away the copyrights.
      Returning to the USA he stayed in Seattle and then moved to Los Angeles to 
      be close to his son, Damion. By this time, Tim cut a different figure, 
      bald and overweight, almost unrecognisable, even to his old friends. He 
      was on a downward spiral, hurting those close to him and back on heroin 
      (he had been clean in Seattle).
      During his last troubled months Tim worked once again with Don Rubin. They 
      had two tracks ready for an album, but Tim Hardin died in Los Angeles on 
      December 29th 1980. When the County Coroner's Office handed down its 
      verdict, his death was "due to acute heroin/morphine intoxication".
      Written by Ian Sharrock - Originally published in Triste 1 

      Tim Hardin - Triste article

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