From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
James Timothy Hardin (1941 – 1980) was an American musician and composer working in folk music but enjoying crossover success with "If I Were a Carpenter" "It'll Never Happen Again" and "How Can We Hang On to a Dream?".
Hardin was born in Eugene, Oregon. He dropped out of high school at age 18 to join the Marine Corps. After his discharge he moved to New York City in 1961, where he briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was dismissed because of truancy and began to focus on his musical career by performing around Greenwich Village, mostly in a blues style.
After moving to Boston in 1963 he was discovered by the record producer Erik Jacobsen (later the producer for The Lovin' Spoonful), who arranged a meeting with Columbia Records. In 1964 he moved back to Greenwich Village to record for his contract with Columbia. The resulting recordings were considered a failure by Columbia, which chose not to release the material until 1969 as Tim Hardin IV. Other demo recordings from 1963/64 were also released in the late 1960s as This Is Tim Hardin, on the Atco label.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1965, he met actress Susan Yardley Morss ("Susan Moore"), and then moved back to New York with her. He signed to the Verve Forecast label, and produced his first authorised album, "Tim Hardin 1" in 1966. This album saw a transformation from his early traditional blues style to the folk style that defined his recording career. This LP contained "Reason To Believe", a song that Rod Stewart and a number of other artists would go on to cover, and the ballad "Misty Roses" which did receive Top-40 radio play. Tim Hardin 2 was released in 1967 and contained one of his most famous songs, "If I Were A Carpenter", which Bobby Darin recorded for a U.S. Top 10 hit in 1966; Johnny Cash and June Carter also recorded a memorable cover version of the song, as did The Four Tops, Doc Watson, Joan Baez (Baez also covered Hardin's "The Lady Came from Baltimore"), ex-Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, and reggae singer John Holt. The song "How Can We Hang On To A Dream?" received a lengthy jazz treatment from The Nice, and was released as a single, as well as being a popular live piece for the band.
In 1969, one of Hardin's few commercial successes occurred with a cover version of a Bobby Darin-penned folk song: "A Simple Song Of Freedom." Hardin did not tour in support of this album and a heroin addiction and stage fright made his live performances erratic. An album entitled This is Tim Hardin, featuring covers of "House of the Rising Sun", Fred Neil's "Blues on the Ceilin'" and Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man", among others, appeared in 1967, on the ATCO record label. The liner notes indicate the songs were recorded in 1963-64, well prior to the release of Tim Hardin 1 by Verve Records. Tim Hardin 3, released in 1968, was a collection of live recordings along with re-makes of previous songs. He may best be remembered for his 1971 version of the Leonard Cohen song, "Bird on a Wire".
Rick Nelson covered his song "Red Balloon", as did the Small Faces, who had also previously covered "If I Were A Carpenter". "Red Balloon" was also covered by Kula Shaker on the B side of their 1996 single "Tattva". Hardin's song "Black Sheep Boy" was covered on Okkervil River's concept album, Black Sheep Boy. It was also covered by Scott Walker and Paul Weller. Billy Bragg, Rod Stewart and Weddings Parties Anything have covered 'Reason To Believe'.
During the following years Hardin moved between England and the U.S. His heroin addiction had taken control of his life by the time his last album, Tim Hardin 9, was released in 1973. He died on December 29, 1980 in Los Angeles, California of a heroin and morphine overdose.
Tim Hardin is buried in the Twin Oaks Cemetery in Turner, Oregon.
- Tim Hardin 1 - (1966 Verve Forecast FT/FTS 3004)
- This is Tim Hardin - 1967 (demos recorded 1963/64) (ATCO 33-210)
- Tim Hardin 2 - 1967 (Verve Forecast FT/FTS 3022)
- Tim Hardin 3 Live in Concert - 1968 (Verve Forecast FTS 3049)
- Tim Hardin 4 - 1969 (Verve Forecast FTS 3064)