Aspen, CO Colorado
Jack Hardy, a folk singer and music promoter whose Greenwich Village recordings and songwriting workshops kept alive the neighborhood tradition of counterculture troubadours, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 63.
The cause was complications of lung cancer, his son, Malcome, said.
John Studebaker Hardy was born in South Bend, Ind. on Nov. 23, 1947. His mother, Lillian, is a painter; his father, Gordon, is a musician and the past dean of students at the Juilliard School and a past president of the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Young Jack grew up in New York City, Aspen and Durham, Conn. He graduated from the University of Harford, where he edited a student newspaper and in 1969 was convicted of libeling President Nixon for publishing a vulgar cartoon depiction of him.
(The conviction and a $50 fine, were overturned on appeal). He moved to the Village in 1973.
Mr. Hardy wrote hundreds of songs – protest songs, political talking songs and romantic ballads – his lyrics often consciously literary, his music tinged with a Celtic sound. With a singing voice raspy and yearning, he performed in clubs and coffeehouses in New York and elsewhere and recorded more than a dozen albums, many of them self-produced, thought two boxed sets of his work were released by a small, independent label in 2000.
“I’m undoubtedly the least famous person with a boxed set,” he boasted in an interview that year.
Perhaps he wasn’t famous, but he was, in his way, influential.
In the early 1980s, after Bob Dylan had gone electric and folk music had been shunted aside by disco and punk, Mr. Hardy helped found a musical cooperative for like-minded folkies. It established a performance space and made more than 1,000 low-budget recordings of local performers and distributed them to subscribers and radio stations, along with a newsletter, under the rubric the Fast Folk Musical Magazine.
Lyle Lovett, Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin all recorded first for Fast Folk, according to the Smithsonian Institution, which holds tapes of the original recordings and the magazine archives. (a two-CD set is available from the institution’s nonprofit record label, Smithsonian Folkways). Mr. Hardy’s song “St. Clare” was covered by Ms. Vega and appears on her 2001 album “Songs in Red and Gray”.
Since the late 1970s and up until recently, when he entered the hospital, Mr. Hardy was the host of Monday night workshops at his railroad flat on West Houston Street.
Songwriters from as far away as Boston and Philadelphia would come to share a pasta dinner and their brand new songs. Critiques were expected; the rule was that no song was supposed to be more than a week old, dictum, Mr. Hardy said, that forced writers to write. Ms. Colvin, Ms. Vega and Mr. Lovett are all alumni.
Mr. Hardy was married and divorced twice. In addition to his son, who lives in St. Louis, and his parents, who live in Manhattan, he is survived by brother, Christopher, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.; a sister, Susan Suechting, of Elk Mound, Wis.; three daughters, Morgan, of Manhattan, Miranda, of Syracuse, N.Y. and Eva Peck of South Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and two grandchildren.
Mr. Hardy said the “fast folk” idea was born out of a need to keep the music alive.
“The whole idea was to do it fast,” he said of the music that he and others recorded and distributed in the 1980s and 1990s. “You could hear a song at an open mike or songwriters’ meeting and two weeks later it was being played on the radio in Philadelphia or Chicago. It was urgent, exciting. It was in your face.”
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