New York/Jack Hardy

Jack Hardy in his apartment on Houston Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Jack Hardy, the extraordinary song craftsman, and one of my most cherished friends died last night of cancer. New York Times obituary here.

From The Boulevardiers by Suzanne Vega:
(I am the tall lover of the city, Jack the quick and fair.)

He loves the city with the bricks and broken bottles
and the pretty little flowers as they grow against the wall.
He is dark, he is tall, he is the tallest one of all of us.
You are bright and quick and fair
and seems that you have lost some hair
but this is all right.
This is OK. We do not mind.
We write and fight and sing
and this is fine.

This is the cover of one of Jack’s earliest albums. I did the photograph. It was originally a blank LP  sleeve, and we called it the White Album. At some point a record company picked it up and a proper cover was made. I don’t remember the location of the photograph, but it was undoubtedly somewhere in Greenwich Village, or very possibly near my apartment in the East Village.

When I met Jack in 1977 he was a charismatic figure full of a sense of personal destiny. The picture above expresses some of that ambitious confidence–and an image carefully cultivated. Later, the trajectory of his career leveled off, but his songwriting skills did not. If anything, they grew and deepened over the years.

Jack Hardy — © Brian Rose

This photo found on the internet is from the same session as the one above. I do not seem to have the negatives, although I haven’t finished looking. I may have some prints. I am guessing that I gave the negatives to Jack shortly after they were made, and they may be in his archive. Nothing was digital in those days, of course.


Arrived somewhat late to an impromptu memorial concert at Banjo Jim’s, a small club in the East Village. I sang The Skyline, my song about 9/11, which was partly a response to Jack Hardy losing his brother in one of the Twin Towers. I did it  a capella, less than perfectly, but I give myself some credit for bravery. Several people did wonderful versions of Jack’s songs, and we ended with Go Tell the Savior led by David Massengill with one of the verses sung beautifully by Jim Allen. I hear that a bigger, more formal memorial is being planned.


The Folk Brothers, David Massengill and Jack Hardy, 2010 — © Brian Rose

Folk City 50th anniversary, Mark Dann and Jack Hardy, 2010 — © Brian Rose

Jack Hardy and David Massengill, Houston Street apartment — © Brian Rose



9 thoughts on “New York/Jack Hardy

  1. jeff gold

    nice words brian, jack was a giant and as I’m sure you remember my major songwriting influence. A loss to big to fathom. Hope all is well with you and I’m going to try to make it to Jacks memorial when I find out when it is. All the best , Jeff

  2. joanne lavine

    I had been wondering what was going on with Jack Hardy…..for the last few weeks ever since I got fiercely interested in the life & work of another folksinger, Al Grierson (1949-2000) I sent a PM to him, introducing myself and expressing my interest in gathering research about Al…and just in the last few days I had decided to contact him again. And then I heard the sad news of his passing…….
    I knew it would be difficult to work through the profound spiritual privacy surrounding Al’s life……all the other of Al’s friends I contacted were likewise silent at my queries. But never did I dream of the real reason…..they were apparently honoring the spirit of Jack Hardy during the tragic illness that ended up taking him from us. What sorrowful news! Rest in peace Jack…and thank you for ennobling the concept of “folk”…and keeping us folks noble through your magnificent body of work and love of sharing and community.

  3. admin Post author


    The picture at top of Jack in his apartment was done last year for possible use on Rye Grass. He ended up going with a painting, but I know he liked the photo. I actually did the image with a 4×5 view camera, if you can believe it. I think I bounced a light off the wall just to supplement things.

    But no contrivance here. Jack was relaxed and trusted me to come up with something good. He probably would have preferred a dash of the dramatic, the mysterious. He’s worn a cape and a velvet jacket–the last one green. But as Jack himself once wrote:

    a cloak will not hide
    what your own eyes see
    a cloak will not change
    what is hidden underneath
    just as mine does not confine
    the idea of what i am
    i am not a tailor i’m a man

  4. Christian Bauman

    Love that song. I love the older ones, although have not listened in a while. I’ve had Lady-O and Guttersnipe taking turns running through my head the past few days.

  5. admin Post author

    Jack’s late writing is as good as the early stuff, in my opinion, but I’ve always been partial to the songs he was doing when we first met. I can still remember hearing The Tailor for the first time–I was just stunned. The Guttersnipe was not part of Jack’s main sets, but sometimes late at night, when the audience had thinned out, and a bunch of songwriters were perched at the bar, he would do it. Jack was never better than the third set–2am–on a Friday or Saturday night at Folk City.

  6. Josh Joffen

    I’ll always think of it as The White Album. “You’ve probably seen the promotional T-shirts,” Jack used to say.

    The ‘Graveyard shifts’ were great. And, yeah, I had the same reaction to The Tailor – it was the first of his songs I ever heard.

  7. Wolfgang Mann

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the lovely Jack Hardy Page. Back then living in Germany I’ve met Jack Hardy in 1979 in NY at the Folk City in Greenwich Vill where I used to go to each time he and his band was playing. Although Folk wasn’t my genre I was thrilled by his performances, and I didn’t leave NY without “the namless one” he gave me. Moving to Greece in 1981 I dind hear anything of Jack Hardy until 1990, when I was tuning in accidentally to a Swedish short wave radio station that played Potters Field and some other songs, calling Jack Hardy one of the real great ones.
    The very same year I met on my Greek island a “classical Jewish intellectual” from NY, a lovely lady, who was telling me about the Paul Simon Central Park concert she visited, and I was telling her about my encounters 21 years ago with Jack Hardy at Folk City. JACK HARDY, she cried out, you know Jack Hardy? I’m his greatest admirer!
    Living now for a long time in Australia, this morning I called a collegue using the words “Good mornin’, Sean, how are you?” what in a flash brought back my memories of Hardy in NY and to the song he used to sing every now and then at Folk City. My collegue answered: “That’s the New Orleas Train, isn’t it?” “Kind of…,” I answered, searching moments later the internet just to learn that Jack Hardy had died in 2011. May he rest in peace, beeing asured he’ll always stay in my memories as a great songwriter and performer and of lovely days in New York.
    Thanks for you lovely page and photos.

  8. Tom Duval

    On the subject of old versus new: it’s been my experience that people tend to really have a special relationship with the work of Jack’s they first encountered. When I met him, it was around the time of The Cauldron, and that record is special to me; at the time, people used to laugh at me a bit, because most people considered the earlier records to be superior. While it has been supplanted as my favorite of his records (by Omens, actually), I still have a fondness for it that I don’t have for the others. Perhaps it is encountering that sly, wry grin for the first time that leaves the lasting impression.

    Thank you for such nice memories and beautiful photos, Brian. Peace.

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