Tim Hardin-1


One of the Great Tragedies in Rock

It was an odd coincidence and a nice little twin-spin of sorts the other night in New York at back-to-back shows featuring Tim Hardin songs.

First up at Joe’s Pub was Tammy Faye Starlite’s magnificent performance of Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 album masterpiece Broken English, the third song of which is the Hardin co-write “Brain Drain.” Then it was over to City Winery for Colin Blunstone’s solo show, in which the legendary Zombies vocalist performed Hardin’s “Misty Roses,” which appeared on his 1988 album One Year.

Tim Hardin. One of the great tragedies in rock of the 1960s and ’70s, Hardin having died of a heroin overdose in 1980 after missing out on a significant solo career. But his songs, clearly, live on—though not as frequently in performance, perhaps, as this one night in New York in May.

Tim Hardin posting - Tammy Faye Starlite as Marianne FaithfullHe remains best known for “If I Were a Carpenter,” which was a major hit—incredibly—three times in the span of four years—for Bobby Darin (Top 10 pop, in 1966), Johnny Cash and June Carter (No. 2 country, 1970), and the Four Tops (Top 20, pop and soul, 1968)—and “Reason to Believe,” sung most famously by Rod Stewart (it was the flip side of “Maggie May” in 1971 and a Top 20 hit for him in 1993 when he recorded a live version) and The Carpenters, who included it in their breakthrough second album Close to You.

Faithfull also recorded “Reason to Believe,” as did everyone from Cash to Neil Young, Billy Bragg, Cher, Andy Williams and Glen Campbell. Not many songwriters can boast that kind of coverage—let alone for just one song.

Tim HardinAt Joe’s Pub, Starlite prefaced “Brain Drain” with a long, hysterical monolog including a recitation from Hamlet, Faithfull having played Ophelia opposite Nicol Williamson’s Hamlet in Tony Richardson’s 1969 screen version. No drama from Blunstone ahead of his beautiful reading of “Misty Roses,” but he did give proper credit to its songwriter.

“Misty Roses,” by the way, was one of two songs Hardin sang at Woodstock, the other being “If I Were a Carpenter.”

Rob O’Connor blogged about Hardin for Yahoo! Music in 2008, and noted that when he died on Dec. 29, 1980, he was “left in the shadows where he spent his entire career” by John Lennon’s death earlier that month. In one final coincidence, then, I left City Winery to go catch the end of Judith Owen’s show at the Cutting Room, and got a ride there with May Pang.

Jim Bessman

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