Two Tims and a Nick

Three singer-songwriters shared uncannily similar lives and careers. Emerging from the 1960s folk scene, they incorporated elements of jazz in their work, succumbed to drugs and reached a wider audience posthumously. Both Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin worked with members of the seminal folk group The Lovin’ Spoonful and were at one stage considered for the role of Woody Guthrie in the 1976 film Bound For Glory. Nick Drake started performing on the folk circuit in Cambridge, England, and Tim Hardin began his career in the folk clubs of Cambridge, Massachussetts.


The most experimental of the three, TIM BUCKLEY, started out as a folk-rocker but developed into an explorer whose sound would simultaneously invite and defy categorization; the bellowing ominous beauty of his later work in particular only began to be appreciated after his death in 1975. Buckley was born on Feb. 14, 1947 in Washington and grew up in New York. The family moved to California when he was 10 and from early adolescence he played in local country bands. This led him to the burgeoning folk scene.

He was noticed during his stints in Los Angeles folk clubs and signed by Frank Zappa’s manager Herb Cohen who arranged a deal with Elektra Records. He had formed a trio with lyricist/poet Larry Beckett and future Blood, Sweat & Tears bassist Jim Fielder, with whom he recorded his first album Tim Buckley in only 5 days; it was released in October 1968 when he was 19. Buckley’s passionate voice wrapped itself exquisitely around Beckett’s romantic compositions like Song Slowly Sung and Valentine Melody. His impressive vocal range appealed to critics like Lillian Roxon: There’s no name yet for the places he and his voice can go.” George Harrison was an early fan and at one stage it was rumoured that Tim would sign to Apple Records.

In the high hippy year 1967 he was doing the folk club circuit in New York City where he recorded his first masterpiece, the accessible Goodbye & Hello, his breakthrough and biggest seller. Classic tracks include the ambitious I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain, the moving Once I Was and of course the Dylan-influenced title track. But instead of consolidating his success, Buckley took many experimental paths, rather too unusual for his 1960s folk fans to appreciate. Initially he explored minimalism on the 1968 album Happy/Sad, co-produced by ex-Loving Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanofsky. The next year’s wistful Blue Afternoon and Lorca (1970) are jazz-folk fusions.

Starsailor was even weirder, a unique journey into the realms of avant-garde chamber music where Tim applied his voice as an instrument. This album took the singer-songwriter concept right over the edge, eliciting comparisons to John Coltrane. The next two years he kept a low profile, working on a film script, writing, spending time with his family and performing in productions of Edward Elbee’s Zoo Story and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.


Now came his opus magnum, the wildly erotic Greetings From LA (1973), an enthusiastic embrace of all things funky, rhythmic and bluesy. In Move With Me he suffers the wrath of a jealous husband and explains his infidelity in Sweet Surrender, while sadness surfaces in Hong Kong Bar, social commentary on Nighthawkin’ and then for a grand finale, sadomasochism in Make It Right: “I’m looking out for a street corner girl/And she’s gonna beat me, whip me, spank me/Aw make it right again.” Rock critic Bart Testa on Greetings From LA: “Made by a broken man still capable of desperate ecstasies.”


Greetings was followed by the unremarkable Sefronia (1973) and Look At The Fool (1974) which proved to be his last studio album. He died on June 29, 1975 in Santa Monica, California, of an overdose of heroin and morphine.

In 1990 the live album Dream Letter Live In London was released posthumously; it’s a killer with essential renditions of Morning Glory, Buzzin’ Fly and Dolphins. The air is electric and his humming and yodelling to himself during the applause are particularly charming.


Buckley left a remarkable body of work that’s being appreciated more with the passing time. This Mortal Coil’s 1984 cover of Song To the Siren remains one of the most sublime.


NICK DRAKE is remembered for his painfully perceptive lyrics and eerily compelling melancholia. Born in Burma on 19 June 1948, Nick moved to the UK with his family in 1955. At school he played reeds, switching to guitar at age 16. In 1967 he entered Fitzwilliam college, Cambridge, to study English literature. More interested in music, however, Nick started performing at Cambridge clubs where Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention discovered him. Soon Fairport manager Joe Boyd signed him for a deal with Island Records.

The debut album Five Leaves Left (1969), was referred to as “Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks without the blooze” – aptly, as the critic Charley Walters elaborates: “his breathy, jazz inspired, attractively cool singing reminded one of Donovan but Drake’s was more smoky and naturally delivered.” Highlights on this album include Way To Blue, Thoughts Of Mary Jane and Cello Song. On the next year’s Bryter Layter, Drake was assisted by John Cale and various Fairport members: Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks. The

melancholic orchestration deftly augmented his angst-ridden lyrics but the mood was warmer than on the debut. Although this was his bestselling album it reached only a cult audience of a few thousand upon first release.

At the start of the 1970s the signs of pathological introversion were intensifying. Always having dreaded playing live, Drake ceased performing and received psychiatric treatment. Afterwards he visited Paris where he wrote songs for the folk starlet Françoise Hardy. His sister, the model Gabrielle, was then working in Paris.


The last album Pink Moon with its Dali-esque cover art had Drake accompanying himself only on acoustic guitar. By now, he had perfected his accomplished guitar technique; this is best displayed on the tracks Things Behind the Sun, Parasite, Ride, Harvest Breed and From The Morning. Desolate and sparse, this album was too bleak for mass consumption.

For a while Drake quit the business but in 1974 he entered the studio again to record 4 tracks. Eventually surfacing on the posthumous compilation Time Of No Reply, these were Rider On The Wheel, Hanging On A Star and Voice From a Mountain. Soon afterwards his disposition took a plunge and despite support from Island Records boss Chris Blackwell and his producer John Wood, he died at his parents’ home of an overdose of antidepressant s on October 25, 1974.

The compilation Heaven In A Wild Flower was released in 1975 and Fruit Tree, the box set, was first released in 1986. It includes the album Time Of No Reply, a collection of demos, alternate takes, previously unreleased tracks including the last 4 recorded before his death. One of these, Mayfair, had been covered by the reggae/ska singer Millie Small (My Boy Lollipop) in 1970. Fruit Tree also includes excellent sleeve notes and photographs.


Drake had always been a favourite of and an influence on a wide variety of 1980s alternative artists. Life in a Northern Town (1985) by Dream Academy was dedicated to him. In the 1990s Drive covered his song Road on their album Out Freakage. in 1989 the Swans-related band World Of Skin included a blood-curdling rendition of his brooding composition Black Eyed Dog on their album Ten Songs for Another World. In his review of Fruit Tree, Erik Davies of Spin Magazine refers thus to Black Eyed Dog: “Drake makes a mistake halfway through the song, a slipped fingering and an open string struck too hard, and in that slash you hear a self nailing itself to its music.”


John Wesley Harding – the album and song about the 19th century outlaw J W Hardin (Dylan thought it well to add a “g”) will be familiar to more than dylanologists. TIM HARDIN, a direct descendant of the original John Wesley, was born in Eugene, Oregon on December 25, 1941, to a family of classical musicians. His mom was a well-known violinist.

Although an influential personality in the 1960s folk revival, Tim had little success as a recording artist and is better known as a songwriter since so many artists recorded his compositions. Among them are Joan Baez, The Byrds, Frank Sinatra, The Four Tops, Rod Stewart, Marianne Faithful, Bobby Darin and Richie Havens. After late 1950s service in the marines he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he began performing in folk clubs round about 1961, soon acquiring a dedicated following on the Boston folk circuit. The next year he recorded This Is Tim Hardin which displays a jazz and blues influence in his style.


As part of the emerging folk rock scene in Greenwich Village in 1963 he worked closely with the Lovin’ Spoonful whose mentor Eric Jacobsen would later produce two of his albums. Tim put in an acclaimed appearance at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival and was signed to Verve for his second album Tim Hardin. His third, the classic Tim Hardin II, included the familiar Reason To Believe, which coupled with Maggie May, topped the American and UK singles charts for Rod Stewart in late 1971. It was also recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Another classic on the album, If I Were a Carpenter, gave Bobby Darrin a top ten hit. Incidentally Hardin’s only hit single was a Darrin composition, Sing A Simple Song of Freedom in 1969. “Carpenter” was revived by The Four Tops in 1968 and by Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1970. Other artists who had hits with his songs include Johnny Mathis (Misty Roses), Scott Walker (Black Sheep Boy) and The Nice (Hang On To a Dream).


Tim had moved to Woodstock in the late 1960s where he became acquainted with Bob Dylan and the Band. Dylan’s aforementioned album came out of this association. He was now recording for Columbia Records for which his first album was the ambitious Suite for Susan Moore and Damian (1969). According to writer Arthur Levy, by this time he had evolved from a jazz-inflected electric folk and blues musician into a romantic musical poet whose “haunting vocals and symbol-laden lyrics were emblematic of the free-spirited denizens of Woodstock Nation.” Hardin, however, was quite the opposite of the sensitive introspective – an assertive, outgoing individual far removed from the egoless peace and love hippy philosophy.

In 1972 Hardin returned to his roots with a smoky jazz delivery on Bird On A Wire. The choice of material reflected the restlessness and inner turmoil that would lead to his death. The title track, Satisfied Mind and Hoboin’ were obvious yearnings for release. More than a dozen stellar folk and jazz musicians contributed but keyboardist Joe Zawinul and guitarist Ralph Towner deserve special credit for their intricate instrumental fusions integrating Tim’s disparate styles.

Commercial success still eluded him so he settled in the UK early that decade where he occasionally played on the club circuit. His life was being increasingly dominated by drug dependency. While resident in the UK he released the unremarkable Painted Head, somewhat better Archetypes (1973) and the excellent Nine (1974).


At the close of the decade he returned to the USA, got a recording deal with Polygram and started recording with Don Rubin, coproducer of his third album. On December 29, 1980, he died of a drug overdose. Hardin was 39 and had survived his contemporaries Hendrix and Joplin by a decade.

Tribute abum

Tim Hardin: remembering the lost genius of his music
Graeme Thomson on Tim Hardin, the influential but forgotten purveyor of folk pop.


Tim Hardin illustration in Mojo Magazine by David Axtell

Photograph of Record Collector’s Goldmine magazine

Cover of Mojo magazine

Album covers and information

Articles online:

Related reading:
UYS, Pieter. Broken English Deluxe Edition by Marianne Faithfull includes mention of Marianne’s recording of Tim Hardin’s Brain Drain.

UYS, Pieter. FAITHFULL: an autobiography by Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton includes mention of Tim Hardin.



Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful