Our Top 10 Tim Hardin Songs list presents the Best Tim Hardin Songs including “Reason To Believe,” “If I Were A Carpenter,” and many more. Born in Eugene, Oregon on December 23, 1941, Tim Hardin dropped out of high school when he turned eighteen years old so he could join the United States Marine Corps. While overseas, he was introduced to the drug known as heroin. After he was discharged, he moved to New York City in 1961 and was briefly a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Instead of pursuing a career in acting, he focused on music instead. During the 1960s, he was part of the Greenwich Village scene, mostly performing as a blues musician. In 1963, he relocated to Boston where he would be discovered and later signed to Columbia Records. He moved back to Greenwich Village and began recording for Columbia.
Instead of releasing his music, Columbia ended Hardin’s contract. In 1965, he moved to Los Angeles, California. It would be there he met Susan Yardley and brought her back with him to New York. After moving back to the Big Apple, he recorded and released his first studio album, Tim Hardin 1, in 1966. In 1967, he recorded and released Tim Hardin 2. After the release of these two albums, he embarked on a tour in Britain before it was shortened due to medical reasons.
This was Tim Hardin
Also in 1967, This is Tim Hardin was released as the artist’s third studio recording. The notes pointed out that the songs were actually recorded as far back as 1963, long before the release of his debut album in 1966. Tim Hardin 4 was his fourth studio album that served as another bluesy-style recording. In 1969, Tim Hardin and Columbia Records signed what would be his second contract with the label. That year saw the blues singer cover Bobby Darin’s single, “Simple Song of Freedom.” There was no tour scheduled to promote the single as the Hardin’s drug addictions and stage fright made him too erratic of a live performer to depend on.
He did appear at the Woodstock Festival, however, and performed his hit single, “If I Were a Carpenter.” Unfortunately, none of his performances were included in the original soundtrack nor in the documentary film. It was, however, included in the 1994 box set, Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music. While with Columbia Records, he recorded a total of three albums. Suite for Susan More and Damion: We Are One, One, All in One was a 1969 release. It was followed by 1971’s Bird on a Wire and 1972’s Painted Head.
After his run with Columbia was over, he bounced back between Britain and the United States. At the time, his addiction to heroin was taking more control of his life than ever. In 1973, Nine was a recording that was released by GM Records in the UK. It would not be released in the US until three years later by Antilles Records. When 1980 rolled around, Hardin moved back to the US after spending so much time in the UK.
It was his intention to make a comeback as he was busy writing and recording new music. However, on December 29, 1980, his heroin addiction caught up with him as his body was found on the floor of his apartment in Hollywood, California. The cause of death was due to a drug overdose, which was established by medical reports before he was buried in his home state of Oregon. Unforgiven was an album that was released posthumously, which featured the new musical material Hardin managed to record before his death.
In total, Tim Hardin had ten studio albums to his credit, along with a live album. Tim Hardin’s talent as a songwriter was simply outstanding, and it played an instrumental role in the success of several artists who found the music inspiring enough to record versions of their own.
Top 10 Tim Hardin Songs
#10 – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
In 1972, Tim Hardin’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” served as an autobiography of sorts as his acoustic performance of this song seemed to reflect upon his own personal struggles. This classic tune was actually a 1962 original by the pioneer of rock and roll himself, Bo Diddley. However, Hardin seemed to treat this song as if it was a confession of his personal demons catching up with him as a performer. Drug addiction is a terrible thing to deal with. It was a reality that not only hindered Hardin’s career as an artist but sent him to an early grave, dying at only thirty-eight years old in his apartment.
#9 – Bird on the Wire
“Bird on the Wire” became a Leonard Cohen classic after it was recorded and released as a single in 1968. The popularity and influence of this song were tremendous. For Leonard Cohen, this was a song that came after watching a bird sitting on a wire while he was on the Greek island, Hydra. It became one of Leonard Cohen’s signature songs. Since then, it has been covered by a large number of artists, including Tim Hardin. Hardin’s version made this touching number a heartwarming favorite, making it easy for the listener to simply get caught up in the music and enjoy it. “Bird on the Wire” was on Hardin’s album, Bird on a Wire, which was among his final recordings in the US.
#8 – Black Sheep Boy
1967’s “Black Sheep Boy” came from Tim Hardin’s second album, Tim Hardin 2. As an easy-listening number, this song’s highlight came from the mix of acoustic guitar, flute, and Hardin’s vocal talent. This is an enjoyable tune that wasn’t hyped up as a commercial favorite, which added to its appeal as a humble, bluesy favorite.
# 7 – Hoochie Coochie Man
“Hoochie Coochie Man” is a blues standard that was first written by Willie Dixon, then recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954. The reference to hoodoo folk magic was the focus of a song that played an instrumental role during the heydey of Chicago’s music scene. It still has its influence heard in today’s music, regardless of genre. Tim Hardin was one of many artists who recorded their own version of this bluesy folk favorite. This was a song that was featured on the album, This is Tim Hardin, which featured recordings that took place well before Hardin’s debut album, Tim Hardin 1, did. Hardin’s cover of this song illustrated the man’s talent as a vocalist who made this a folksy fan favorite while he was part of the Greenwich Village scene.
#6 – House of the Rising Sun
“House of the Rising Sun” has its origins deep-rooted as a traditional English folk song that was first collected in Appalachia during the 1930s. The most popular version of this was recorded and released by The Animals in 1964. It became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as in Canada, Spain, and the UK. It was a global hit for the British rock band before Tim Hardin took a crack at performing and recording this fan favorite for his album, This is Tim Hardin, which was released in 1967. While Hardin’s may not have charted as a big hit, his performance of one of classic rock’s most beloved hits is good enough to make it a folksy favorite.
#5 – How Can We Hang On to a Dream
Written and recorded by Tim Hardin, “How Can We Hang On to a Dream” was a song he released six months before his debut album, Tim Hardin 1, came out in 1965. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number fifty. As one of the few hit singles he personally performed as a recording artist, it also became one of many tunes that would be covered many times over by a number of musicians from varying genres. In the 1987 Dutch movie, Zoeken naar Eileen, Hardin’s version of “How Can We Hang On to a Dream” resulted in a second appearance on the music charts, this time at number four on the Dutch Top 40 chart. If there was an ideal, somber waltz to dance to and enjoy, this is it.
#4 – Simple Song of Freedom
Bobby Darin’s “Simple Song of Freedom” was a song Tim Hardin covered while he was signed with Columbia Records for the second time. It was a 1969 release for the blues artist that became a fifty hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. From the album, Bird on a Wire, “Simple Song of Freedom” was one of the few singles Hardin released that made a chart appearance. Although it was a Darin original, it was Hardin’s version that was officially released as a single first. Darin’s wasn’t released as such until 1972. Unlike Hardin, Darin’s version didn’t chart.
#3 – Misty Roses
From the 1967 album, Tim Hardin 2, “Misty Roses” was a song that made a solid impression as a studio recording, as well as a favorite number at the Woodstock Festival held in 1969. The jazzy mix between the drums and piano beautifully played alongside Hardin’s vocal performance in what was a song that felt like was in a world of its own. For romantics, “Misty Roses” is a great song to use as a way to say “I love you” to that special someone in your life.
#2 – Reason to Believe
“Reason to Believe” was first written, composed, and recorded by Tim Hardin before it was released as one of the songs from his debut album, Tim Hardin 1, in 1965. This song inspired Bobby Darini and Karen Dalton to each record their own version of it in 1966. It was also covered by artists from various genres such as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Carpenters, and Rod Stewart. It would be Stewart’s version that became a huge hit for the first time in 1971 and then again as a live version in 1993.
It topped the UK Singles Chart when it was released in 1971 and was a minor hit at number sixty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. When it was released by Stewart as a live version in 1993, it performed even better on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking as high as number nineteen. In Canada, it became a number one hit. As for Tim Hardin, his 1965 version was the one that inspired some of the best artists in the music industry to include it in their own discographies. The beauty behind Tim Hardin’s work as a singer-songwriter in this song was allowing the melody set the melancholic tone without making it sound more complicated.
#1 – If I Were a Carpenter
“If I Were a Carpenter” was a song about a troubled man who lyrically shared his insecurity issues while involved in a romantic relationship. It’s believed the song was inspired by his personal feelings for his girlfriend actress, Susan Morss. If there was ever that one song that best identified Tim Hardin as a recording artist, “If I Were a Carpenter” is it. This song was first recorded and released by Bobby Darin before it was later covered by its writer, then by Johnny, then The Four Tops in 1968, and then Johnny Cash in 1970.
While this song may not have been a hit for Hardin, it peaked within the top ten for Darin on an international level and has since become a pop classic. For The Four Tops, they also turned “If I Were a Carpenter” into an international favorite. As for Johnny Cash’s version, it managed to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number thirty-six and on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at number two. In Canada, it became a number one hit on Canada’s Country Tracks chart. While Hardin’s recorded version may not have won over the amount of fan appreciation as some of the artists have, it’s still a rock classic that is worth listening to. The man’s talent as a songwriter was nothing short of amazing as a musical visionary.
Top 10 Tim Hardin Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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