John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

The Tragic Talent of Tim Hardin

'Misty Roses' is happy sad classic by singer songwriter who died too young.

By - Jan 30th, 2023 11:19 am
Tim Hardin. (Public Domain).

Tim Hardin. (Public Domain).

A certain generation of folk singers had doom written all over them. Along on the ride to oblivion with Tim Buckley and Phil Ochs was the oh-so-talented Tim Hardin. You could hear the weight of the world, which was made even heavier by his talent for self destruction, every time he opened his mouth. What came out was a voice of infinite resignation that sounded like someone had slapped the world’s best tremolo pedal on it. Indescribably gorgeous, it was.

Hardin was famous for “If I Was A Carpenter,” made popular and I might add, sung well, by another star-crossed star, Bobby Darin. Neither artist made it to forty. (It was Darin’s childhood bouts of rheumatic fever that weakened his heart and ended his life at age thirty seven.) Hardin also wrote “Reason To Believe,” often covered and never really surpassed.

“Misty Roses” hovers into the area where jazz meets bossa nova (Astrud Gilberto covered it), and it makes you think he might have been heading there at some point, had he survived. It relies on a harmonic rule all human hearts obey: Major keys feel happy and minors, sad. Hop back and forth between them, as he does in this song and suddenly the firmament is a lot less firm. Standing on shaky ground and singing with that breathy tremolo, he takes all of two minutes and change to create something for the ages.

You look to me like misty roses
Too soft to touch
But too lovely to leave alone
If I could be like misty roses
I love you much
You’re too lovely to leave alone

Flowers often cry
But too late to find
That their beauty has been lost
With their peace of mind
You look to me like love forever
Too good to last
But too lovely not to try
If I believe in love forever
I’d forget the past
You’re too lovely
Not to try

© 1966 Tim Hardin

Fine poetry to go with the lovely music. Hardin exuded a rugged handsomeness in his photos, but the combination of those looks and delicate songs like this one made me think of him as a gentle giant of some sort. Does this kind of music happen today? I’d have to turn on the radio a whole lot more to find out. Maybe it does on the fringes, but every time I hear mainstream modern pop, it seems more perfect and obsessed with being mistake-free. Algorithms may save us from the messiness of everyday life, but not making mistakes is a pretty big one itself. There was humanity, regret and a sense of something broken when Tim Hardin sang — perfect he wasn’t, and it was beautiful to behold.

Hardin spent most of his adult life addicted to heroin, the scourge of so many artists. It finally got him in 1975 and left an empty space he might have filled with more greatness. Sad, like one of his songs.

Correction: My story originally included folksinger Dave Van Ronk, who lived to the age of 65, in the group of musicians who died young. I sincerely regret the error.

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One thought on “Sieger on Songs: The Tragic Talent of Tim Hardin”

  1. says:

    I haven’t thought about Tim Hardin in years. Thanks for the memory.

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