Move out of the way because Beyonce is playing no games.
- Posted on Mar 14th 2011 2:50PM by Brian Voerding
Laura Pietra via JackHardy.com
Hardy was born in South Bend, Ind., in 1947 to artistic parents. His father was a musician and once the Dean of the Juilliard School, and his mother was a painter. In 1973, he moved to Greenwich Village, where he would spend the rest of his life.
In the early 1980s, Hardy, who was one of the best-known leaders and organizers of the rich songwriting scene in the Village, and fellow musicians founded a cooperative that grew out of informal songwriter's nights held at neighborhood bars. At a time when the costs of making records were prohibitive for average musicians, the cooperative provided invaluable opportunities for songwriters to release records and get local distribution.
Over the years, the cooperative released more than 1,000 recordings, including early works by songwriters who would go on to extensive and award-winning careers, including Lyle Lovett, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked and Christine Lavin.
The cooperative also launched a newsletter, called Fast Folk Musical Magazine, that spotlighted releases from and performances by its musicians and came with full-length recordings. The newsletter was active for 15 years, from 1982 to 1997, and published over 100 issues. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the record label arm of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., now owns and maintains the newsletter's archives.
Many of the cooperative's musicians frequented Hardy's songwriting circles, which held to Hardy's ideal of what he called "fast folk": Participants were required to bring songs that were less than a week old. For Hardy, the idea was to keep them fresh, and force the musicians to do what they did best: write songs.
Hardy spent the bulk of his adult life promoting seemingly every folk singer but himself. He was aware of the impact of his choice but remained set in his ways. "I don't begrudge myself doing it, but it completely obscured my career," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998.
Still, he was a prolific artist himself. His lyrics were often poetic and literary-minded, and his music was infused with Celtic influences. Lavin once said of Hardy that his music was "a true descendant of the bards and storytellers of ancient Scotland and Ireland." He wrote hundreds of songs and released 16 albums between 1976 and 2007, along with a well-received two-disc box set in 2000. He was also an accomplished performer who continued to step onto stages until just before his death.
"He had a beautiful voice, a great tenor that could go higher than you'd imagine if you knew him, and then dip all scratchy into spooky nether-regions," said Hardy's writer friend Christian Bauman in a tribute posted to his blog last Friday.
For Hardy the smallest stages, Bauman said, were the most fitting.
"Jack was at his best around a campfire," Bauman wrote. "With a Texas (or Massachusetts or Colorado) dark breeze blowing and the fire popping and just a shadow of his face visible ... that was Jack's realm."
Hardy is survived by his parents, a son and three daughters, two siblings and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
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