FolkWorld #60 07/2016
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Fast Folk

Today, a generation of singer/songwriters remember Jack Hardy with gratitude and fondness, and 24 of them lent their voices to a musical homage, Fast Folk - A Tribute to Jack Hardy.

Jack Hardy

Artist Video Jack Hardy @ FolkWorld:

John Studebaker "Jack" Hardy (November 23, 1947 – March 11, 2011) was an American lyrical singer-songwriter and playwright based in Greenwich Village, who was influential as a writer, performer, and mentor in the North American and European folk music scenes for decades. He was cited as a major influence by Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, and many others who emerged from that scene in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Hardy was the author of hundreds of songs, and toured tirelessly for almost forty years. He was also the founding editor of Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a periodical famous within music circles for twenty years that shipped with a full album (and later, compact disc) in each issue, whose entire catalog is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

Fast Folk - A Tribute to Jack Hardy
The late Jack Hardy, an influential folk singer-songwriter and founder of the Fast Folk record label and magazine, was a firm believer in the power of song as a form of communication. For him, folk music was more about the lyrics and the melody than the singer. "As a songwriter," he said, "I'm only as good as my latest song."

In honor of the fifth anniversary of his death, Smithsonian Folkways presents A Tribute to Jack Hardy, featuring 26 previously unreleased recordings of Hardy's songs by an illustrious group of performers, all of whom cited Hardy as a key influence and a personal friend. For the album, Mark Dann and David Massengill compiled more than 100 pages of liner notes that include Hardy's "Songwriter's Manifesto," complete lyrics, photos, and personal tributes, anecdotes, and essays from the participating singer-songwriters.

Picking up the guitar as a teenager in the 1960s in Colorado, Hardy's early repertoire consisted of The Everly Brothers, The Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. But much of his writing style can be attributed to his love for literature. The poetry of William Butler Yeats especially influenced Hardy's songwriting style, which is characterized by vivid imagery and literary techniques. After moving to Greenwich Village, New York City, to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, Hardy created the Songwriters Exchange, where musicians shared a new song weekly. The group, and resulting concert series, attracted established performers, such as Griffith, Vega, John Gorka, and Shawn Colvin, as well as aspiring amateurs.

Known both for the constructive songwriting advice and the enormous bowls of pasta he would serve up, Hardy became a sounding board, mentor, and friend for a generation of NYC folksingers. In 1982, Hardy, with the help of Dave Van Ronk and others, founded Fast Folk, a record label and music magazine that featured hundreds of singer-songwriters on 98 albums released during a 15-year run (now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection). While he never reached the commercial success that some of his weekly guests achieved, Hardy was a prolific songwriter and released 21 albums in nearly 30 years before he died of lung cancer in 2011 at age 63.

Fast Folk - A Tribute to Jack Hardy, featuring All-Star Lineup of David Massengill, Suzanne Vega, Richard Shindell, Jack Williams, Christine Lavin, Richard Julian, Red Molly, Nels Andrews, Paul Sachs, Frank Christian, Erik Frandsen, Jonathan Byrd, Rod MacDonald, Lucy Kaplansky, Anthony da Costa, Terre Roche, John Gorka, Ronny Cox, Brian Rose, Andrew Rose Gregory, Diana Jones, Frank Tedesso, Kate MacLeod, Nanci Griffith, has been released on the fifth anniversary of the esteemed singer-songwriter's death, March 11, 2016.

Artist Video
Various Artists "A Tribute to Jack Hardy", Smithsonian Folkways, 2015

Hardy died on the morning of March 11, 2011 in Manhattan. He was 63. The cause was complications of lung cancer.


Jack Hardy was strongly identified with New York's Greenwich Village folk music scene. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Hardy hosted Monday-night songwriter's circles and pasta dinners at his apartment on Houston Street (pronounced "HOW-stun"), a gathering famously open to both established artists and novices. He also began a small, informal songwriters' group at The English Pub in Greenwich Village, which later became a more formal songwriters' night at the Cornelia Street Cafe in December 1977. This group would later evolve into the Songwriter's Exchange, releasing an album on Stash Records in 1980. Eventually, the group formed a cooperative, led by Hardy, and in 1981 took over the booking of the Speakeasy, which became a thriving venue for songwriters. Hardy was also the founder and first editor of Fast Folk Musical Magazine in 1982. Hardy was a graduate of the Pomfret School in Connecticut and the University of Hartford.

Although more popular in Europe than in his native America for much of his career, the end of the 20th century brought a reignited interest in his music on his native shores. Throughout, he toured tirelessly on both sides of the Atlantic. Hardy was a lyrical writer; his songs were political, although usually subtly so. His music was often tinged with a Celtic flavor, although his last few albums took on more of a country & western style. Both budget-conscious and disdainful of self-important artistic egos, Hardy recorded all of his albums (almost 15 of them, in a 40-year career) in the same manner: by rehearsing a small band and then recording the entire album "live to tape" in a period of 48 hours or less. In the last few years of his life, Hardy toured with long-time friend and fellow songwriter David Massengill as a duo called the Folk Brothers.

Suzanne Vega
Artist Video

In songwriter circles, Hardy was as well known as a teacher and mentor as he was as an artist. Songwriters gathered at his hallowed Houston Street apartment one night a week to play their latest (and usually unfinished) work, and to face criticism from Hardy and their gathered peers. Fueled by pasta and wine, the weekly songwriters' sessions were famous for the artistic and political conversations that flowed in them and the large number of remarkable songs that emerged from them. Jack suffered neither egos nor nerves, and when the introduction to a new song got too long and/or apologetic from a songwriter, Hardy would bark, "Shut up and sing the song."

The hundreds of songwriters who frequented Hardy's apartment gatherings over the years included names both unknown and famous – among them, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Brian Rose, Richard Shindell, John Gorka, Wendy Beckerman, Richard Julian, Frank Tedesso, Christian Bauman, Linda Sharar, Rod MacDonald, Lucy Kaplansky, and Christine Lavin. The weekly songwriter's session itself made it into a number of songs by Hardy alumni, including "Jack's Crows" by John Gorka, the title song of Gorka's second album, and "Boulevardiers" by Suzanne Vega. The group was also immortalized in fictional form in Christian Bauman's 2008 novel "In Hoboken," which included two chapters that took place in the Houston Street apartment, and a character named "Geoff Mason" who bore a striking (and, according to a public radio interview with Bauman, intentional) resemblance to Hardy.

While Hardy's name never achieved the level of fame of Vega, Gorka, or the many he recorded for Fast Folk (including Tracy Chapman, Lyle Lovett, David Wilcox, or The Roches), he continually built on his substantial catalog of literate, well-crafted songs.

Hardy attended college at The University of Hartford, and in 1969 – then editor of the University of Hartford's The News-Liberated Press – Hardy was arrested and convicted of libel after publishing a lewd cartoon that attacked then president Richard Nixon. Hardy was convicted and paid a $50 fine. While the conviction was later overturned on appeal, Hardy remains the only person in the history of the United States that has ever been arrested and convicted of libeling the President of the United States.

Jack Hardy was predeceased by a brother, Jeff, who played bass in Jack's band and appeared on many of his recordings. Jeff Hardy, who worked as a chef for a financial services firm located in the World Trade Center, died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

A Tribute to Jack Hardy

Christine Lavin

Artist Video Christine Lavin @ FolkWorld:
FW#32, #34, #41, #42, #47

Nanci Griffith

Artist Video Nanci Griffith @ FolkWorld:
FW#39, #48

Rod MacDonald

Artist Video Rod MacDonald @ FolkWorld:
FW#38, #45

Diana Jones

Artist Video Diana Jones @ FolkWorld:
FW#53, #59

John Gorka

Artist Video John Gorka @ FolkWorld:

Lucy Kaplansky

Artist Video Lucy Kaplansky @ FolkWorld:

Richard Julian

Artist Video Richard Julian @ FolkWorld:

Kate MacLeod

Artist Video Kate MacLeod @ FolkWorld:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Date: June 2016.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Jack Hardy, (3) Suzanne Vega, (4) Christine Lavin, (5) Nanci Griffith, (6) Rod MacDonald, (7) Diana Jones, (8) John Gorka, (9) Lucy Kaplansky, (10) Richard Julian, (11) Kate MacLeod (unknown/website).

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