Tim Hardin - Biography
By J Poet
Tim Hardin had a brief but brilliant career. When he died in 1980 of a drug overdose he was only 40 years old and had only made nine albums, but he’d penned dozens of tunes that were folk and pop standards including “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Reason to Believe,” “Misty Roses” and “Lady Came from Baltimore.” His first two albums Tim Hardin (1966 Verve) and Tim Hardin 2 (1967 Verve) are understated masterpieces, perfect time capsules of 60's romanticism with minimal production, that still makes them sound timeless.
Hardin was born in 1941, in Eugene, Oregon. His mother was a classically trained violinist and his father a jazz musician. He played guitar in high school and enlisted in the Marines after graduation. By the late 50's he was out of the service and living in Cambridge where he became part of the folk scene that was about to explode. Verve Records signed him in 1966 and released two flawless albums in two years, Tim Hardin (1966 Verve) and Tim Hardin 2 (1967 Verve). While other performers were enjoying big hits with his tunes – Bobby Darin and Johnny Cash & June Carter with “If I Were a Carpenter” and Rod Stewart with “Reason to Believe” – he was frustrated with his own lack of success. Always a heavy drug user, his habit made him erratic and hard to deal with, probably one reason for his sparse recording output.
Verve released two live albums in 1968, Live in Concert and Tim Hardin 3, but each largely consisted of tunes he had recorded for his first two albums. Columbia signed him in 1970 and released Suite for Susan Moore and Damion: We Are One, One, All in One that same year. It was darker and many songs sounded unfinished, with Hardin often reciting incomprehensible poetry. The album was slammed by critics and sank without a trace. 1971’s Bird on a Wire (Columbia), named after the Leonard Cohen song, was more focused with six Hardin originals that rank with his best, although they never approached the quality of his earlier work.
When Bird failed to find an audience, Hardin moved to England. He toured Europe and Britain extensively, and recorded his last album Nine (Island, 1973). He was in good voice, but again the few originals didn’t measure up to his two classics. He moved back to the US in the late 70's and was reportedly working on a new album when he overdosed in December of 1980 at the age of 39.