Tim Hart remembered
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.
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.