Tim Hart

January 9, 1948 – December 24, 2009

We have lost a major piece of folk-rock firmament in the passing of Tim Hart this past December 24th at the age of 61.

Hart was a key component of the original lineup of Steeleye Span – a counterpart to the similarly long-standing Fairport Convention and a building block in the reworking of English traditional music within a rock context.

Hart joined Ashley Hutchings, Maddy Prior, Gay and Terry Woods, contributing vocals, guitar, dulcimer, harmonium, 5-string banjo and fiddle – all essential, traditional components of Steeleye’s sound – until he left the band in ’82.

His first solo record left off where his musical partnership with Prior, pre-Steeleye, had begun, including two collections of traditional English folk songs and the groundbreaking Summer Solstice they recorded in ’71.

Maddy Prior and Tim Harts album Summer Solstice

click to hear or buy tracks

Hart will also be remembered for recording two delightful children’s records, which carry with them an intimacy that melded perfectly with his vocal approach, his vast instrumental skills and his loyalty to traditional music.

At the same time, Hart was driven by a need to innovate – as established by his willingness to adapt folk tunes to electric instrumentation, which took Steeleye Span in a direction opposite that of Fairport, moving from folk to rock. As such, the two bands complemented each other in an environment hungry for both approaches.

Ill health forced Hart’s premature retirement in ’88 and he departed Britain for recuperation in the Canary Islands, abandoning music for a time in favour of writing and photography. When Steeleye reconvened for a few special occasions, Hart was there. When Hart and Prior reunited for a BBC Electric Proms concert in the fall of ’08, the blend of their two voices proved a magical reminder that this was one of the all-time great folk duos.

Hart will also be remembered for his enthusiastic resuscitation of Steeleye Span through his introduction of Martin Carthy and, after the departure of Ashley Hutchings and Carthy, his addition of Rick Kemp and Bob Johnson – a move that gave the band a heavier sound which ultimately led to the band’s success with a larger audience.

Diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in ’08, Hart had spent a year in Britain undergoing treatment, but returned to his beloved Canary Islands three weeks ago, and died peacefully the day before Christmas. Tim Hart is survived by his wife, Conny, and children, Kim and Sally.

Steeleye Span F0under Tim Hart Dead from Lung Cancer (Undercover.com.au)

Steeleye Span at Last.fm

Steeleye Span at Wikipedia

Steeleye Span at allmusic.com

Steeleye Span at Grooveshark

Eric Thom is a music writer and photographer whose work appears in Blues Revue, Sing Out!, Penguin Eggs, and Exclaim!

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4 comments

  1. avatar
    Richard Flohil 2 January, 2010 at 20:16

    How wonderful to see and hear Maddy and the band sing All Around My Hat – even though the occasion with which it has been revived for us is so unhappy. I saw Span three times here in Toronto — once at Larry’s Hideaway (Maddy pointed out that this was the first time the band had played inside an ashtray), and again at The Music Hall on Danforth – the last date on a tour with Fairport Convention, all of whom Came out while Span was trying to sing an acappella piece, Guadete, and mooned their fellow artists and the audience. I think Tim was in the band when they played at Convocation Hall – they were so loud I had to listen to the show in the corridor. “Oh,” Maddy said afterwards, “It’s our sound man – he’s just come off of three weeks with The Who.”

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