The career of folk singer/songwriter Tim Hardin came to a tragic end when he died in 1980, but his story is still a fascinating one. The composer of a number of familiar songs, he was also a soulful singer whose best-selling record was of a song written by someone else — Bobby Darin. But that was only fair since Darin had earlier scored a big hit with Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter.”
While growing up in Eugene, Oregon, James Timothy Hardin seemed to be in a hurry to get on with his life. He left high school to join the Marines and soon found himself in Vietnam during the early pre-war days. It’s been said that it was there that he first tried heroin, and his problem would follow him as he subsequently tried to break into the 1960s folk music scene in New York and Boston.
By mid-decade he was finally starting to make some headway, not only with club appearances but also by securing a recording contract. It was the beginning of a period of solid work by him, but even though he was a prolific songwriter and made countless records, none would reach the Top Ten on the charts with him as a performer. However, “If I Were A Carpenter” did just that when recorded by Bobby Darin in 1966 (and Hardin would memorably perform it at Woodstock a few years later).
Ironically enough, Hardin’s best-selling record as a performer was his rendition of Darin’s “Simple Song of Freedom,” which did make the upper range of the charts. But even though his songs would be recorded by everyone from Rod Stewart to Johnny Cash, success was always a little elusive for Hardin. Erratic behavior from his struggles with drugs would eventually cause his career to plummet in his later years. When he died from an overdose in 1980 he was just 39.