Reason to Believe: Tim Hardin, Rod Stewart and the Carpenters

Hello there! In this week’s blog we consider Reason to Believe. This is a great folk-pop song from the 60s. We will review the original version by Tim Hardin, and covers of that song by Rod Stewart and the Carpenters.

Tim Hardin and Reason to Believe:

Tim Hardin was an American folk singer-songwriter. When he returned to the States following a stint in the Marine Corps and active duty in Vietnam, he began writing songs and producing albums.  Here is a photo of Tim Hardin taken in 1974.

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Hardin’s solo career was hampered by two fairly significant issues that plagued him throughout his life. First, he suffered from stage fright, which negatively affected his concerts – indeed, would sometimes cause him to cancel scheduled performances.

Hardin’s second big issue was his addiction to heroin. Apparently this began when he was on duty in Vietnam, and Hardin struggled with this for the rest of his life. Let’s face it, when you fall asleep onstage during one of your own concerts (this actually happened to Hardin), you have a serious substance-abuse problem.

However, Hardin is best known for two of his original songs, both of which achieved fame when covered by other artists. The first was If I Were a Carpenter, which had widespread success after being covered by several artists. A 1966 cover by Bobby Darin made it into the Billboard Top 10 on the pop charts, while a 1968 version by the Four Tops made the top 20 in both pop and soul charts, and a 1970 cover by Johnny Cash and June Carter hit #2 on the country charts.

Hardin’s second big songwriting hit was Reason to Believe. Over the years this has become a folk-rock classic. Dozens of artists have covered the song, including Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Peter Paul & Mary, Glen Campbell, Cher and Neil Young.

Reason to Believe involves a statement directed by the singer to his/her cheating, dishonest lover. Even knowing that the lover is deceitful, the lover is so desirable that despite everything, the singer nevertheless “looks to find a reason to believe.”

If I listen long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true,
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried,
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

While the song is heartbreakingly sad, nevertheless the melody really sticks in your head. After I listen to this song, I frequently find myself humming it for days afterwards.

Here is the audio of Tim Hardin singing his composition Reason to Believe.

This is quite a straightforward folk song. Hardin accompanies himself on acoustic guitar, with some strings and piano added to the arrangement. Hardin’s voice is quite appealing – very mellow and sincere.

Tim Hardin’s career was going relatively well – he produced a few albums, was in demand as a songwriter, and was a headliner at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. However, Hardin’s singing career gradually wound down as his heroin habit progressively took over his life. In the late 1970s, Hardin sold away his song copyrights. Then in December 1980, Hardin was found dead in his Hollywood apartment from a heroin overdose.

Tragically, Hardin was never able to overcome his addiction, and it devastated an otherwise promising musical career.

Rod Stewart and Reason to Believe:

Rod Stewart has been a major rock star for nearly fifty years. Rod had been around since the early 60s as a vocalist and harmonica player, but did not really achieve substantial fame until 1967, when he became the lead vocalist for the Jeff Beck Group. Rod also began writing songs at this time.

His gravelly, raspy vocals gained him quite a following, particularly on the blues and soul circuit in Britain, and a 1968 trip to America and booking at New York’s Fillmore East auditorium brought him additional critical acclaim in the U.S.

At this point, Rod first met up with bass player and guitarist Ron Wood. They began an association that would be very fruitful, and Wood will always be associated with Stewart’s rise to fame. Below is a photo of Rod Stewart and his mate Ronnie Wood (L) performing with the Faces.

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Stewart subsequently left the Jeff Beck Group and became the lead vocalist with the pop group Faces, along with Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones. This coincided with a period when Stewart began to issue solo albums backed by his own group of musicians (also including Wood).

Stewart’s big breakthrough came in 1971. He released a single, his cover of Tim Hardin’s Reason to Believe, a cut from his first solo album Every Picture Tells a Story. However, the “B” side of that single, Maggie May, became a surprising boffo hit, rising all the way to #1 in both the US and UK pop charts.

Through the 70s Rod continued to produce a string of hits, some through his solo efforts and others with Faces. His unique rough vocal style was amazingly effective over a wide range of tunes — all the way from blues-based songs to R&B, folk-rock and the occasional ballad.

Faces continued for a few years but eventually broke up in 1975.  One reason was that it became impossible to balance the demands of the band with Stewart’s solo career; another reason was that guitarist Ronnie Wood became a permanent member of the Rolling Stones at this time. Despite the tension between Rod’s career with Faces and his solo work, during this period Stewart produced some extraordinary songs.

In 1993 Rod Stewart joined forces with his old mate Ronnie Wood to produce a segment of the MTV: Unplugged series. Stewart’s appearance became an incredibly popular episode. He and Wood performed a number of his hits from the early 70s, and they were clearly enjoying their reunion.

Here is their live version of Reason to Believe from the Unplugged concert.

Pretty great, huh? It seems like this song was tailor-made for Rod’s vocals and his delivery, as he really brings out the pain and heartbreak in the song. The original record includes a lovely organ part that is here replaced by piano, but the electric violin that was a major feature of the record remains in the Unplugged appearance – although, how does an electric violin fit into the Unplugged format?

Rod’s voice is in great form here. I have to say I have always preferred his version of Reason to Believe over the much, much bigger hit Maggie May. The album from the Unplugged concert made it to #2 on the Billboard album charts; in addition, the ‘Unplugged’ Reason to Believe was issued as a single and also made it into the charts.

Here is another video of Rod in a live performance of Reason to Believe. This is from his One Night Only! Rod Stewart concert in Royal Albert Hall in October, 2004. In this concert Rod performed a retrospective of tunes, all the way from his first hit Maggie May up to his most recent songs.

The audience is really into this one – they jump to their feet and sing along right from the first note. This video reinforces my impression that Rod’s voice is just perfect for this song.

Although I was a big fan in the early days, I jumped off the Rod Stewart bandwagon in the late 70s when he began dressing in spandex and singing disco songs – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and Hot Legs were too over-the-top for me. Since veering off the rails in the 70s, Rod has occasionally produced work that reminds me of his great early days. I would particularly point to his cover of Tom Waits’ Downtown Train in 1990, and Rod’s duets with Tina Turner.

However, it’s hard to argue musical choices with someone who has sold upwards of 100 million records. And Rod Stewart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In recent years, Rod has begun performing tunes from the Great American Songbook, such as They Can’t Take That Away From Me and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.

Rod Stewart has led a very colorful life. In addition to his well-publicized love of soccer and his affinity for model trains, Stewart was nearly always in the company of actresses or other beauties. An affair with Swedish actress Britt Eckland in the mid-70s was followed by marriage to George Hamilton’s ex-wife Alana Hamilton, and then a subsequent marriage to super-model Rachel Hunter. Rod has fathered eight children (that we know about), by five different mothers.

The Carpenters and Reason to Believe:

We covered the Carpenters in our blog post on Please Mr. Postman. Here we will briefly review their career.

The Carpenters were a brother-and-sister pop duo who were major stars during the period 1969-1980. They became soft-pop superstars by combining Richard’s sophisticated orchestral arrangements with Karen’s wonderful throaty contralto vocals.

Here is a photo of Karen and Richard Carpenter in 1981.

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Richard Carpenter fashioned a ‘signature sound’ by blending classically-inspired combinations of strings, woodwinds and brass. Richard played keyboards on the Carpenters’ songs. The vocal tracks on their albums involved overdubbing Karen’s and Richard’s voices to produce background vocals to complement Karen’s singing. Karen’s voice was distinctive and unforgettable – it wasn’t powerful, but featured a three-octave vocal range, perfect pitch and a beautiful lower register that was highlighted in Richard’s arrangements.

Karen first appeared as the drummer in a jazz trio with Richard, but soon she began to be featured as a vocalist. Karen played drums in all of the Carpenters’ early records, but gradually gave up drumming when her vocals became the highlight of the group’s songs.

Here are the Carpenters performing Reason to Believe in fall 1971.

I’m really not sure whether or not this is a live performance – although Karen Carpenter was a great live singer, it’s hard to believe they can reproduce the lush sounds of the chorus and orchestra onstage – for instance, where is the string section, and don’t we hear Karen Carpenter’s voice in the chorus? Regardless, I just love Karen’s deep, throaty voice.

As an added bonus, the video shows Karen playing the drums. Since she stopped drumming onstage fairly early, this is a reasonably rare view of the Carpenters. The arrangement is typical of Richard Carpenter – a classically-inspired pop style, with a large orchestra featuring a prominent string section. My only complaint is that the pathos of this depressing song gets lost in the generally upbeat arrangement.  My friend Glenn Gass remarks that Richard manages to turn this song “into a Frosted Flakes commercial.”

While they were a hot item in the early 70s, the Carpenters spent an enormous amount of time on the road, often performing up to 200 shows per year. The grueling travel schedule eventually caught up to them. In January 1979 Richard checked into a rehab facility for treatment of an addiction to Quaaludes.

However, Richard’s drug problem was nothing compared to Karen’s disastrous eating issues. She suffered from anorexia nervosa, a terrible body image disorder. In the most severe cases, patients could starve to death while still maintaining that they needed to lose more weight.

This situation was particularly difficult for Karen because at that time the symptoms and treatment for anorexia were not widely understood. The issue first surfaced when she collapsed during a performance in 1975. A couple of years later Karen underwent treatment with a psychotherapist, and she entered a treatment facility in fall 1982. Two months later she left the facility claiming that she was cured, despite advice from family and friends.

In February 1983, Karen Carpenter died from heart failure that occurred as a side effect of anorexia nervosa. It brought a tragic end to a most promising career. However, Karen Carpenter’s death did help to bring about a heightened public awareness of eating disorders.

Source Material:

Wikipedia, Reason to Believe
Wikipedia, Tim Hardin
Wikipedia, Rod Stewart
Wikipedia, Ronnie Wood
Wikipedia, The Carpenters

About Tim Londergan

Tim Londergan is professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Indiana University-Bloomington. He studies the properties of the quarks and gluons that form the internal structure of protons and neutrons. He also writes a blog "Tim's Cover Story" that compares covers of important songs in rock music history. From 2002 to 2018, he and his wife shared their college-town experiences with two delightful cats, siblings Lewis and Clark, who enormously enriched their lives. Together with his colleague Steven Vigdor, Tim is co-author of a blog "Debunking Denial," that discusses the difference between skepticism and denial as manifested in various current issues. He is also co-founder of "Concerned Scientists of Indiana University," a group that supports evidence-based science, funding for science research, and policies based on the best available scientific information. His hobbies include tennis and ornithology, and he is a life-long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
This entry was posted in Folk music, Folk-rock music, Pop Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Reason to Believe: Tim Hardin, Rod Stewart and the Carpenters

  1. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks tim. its a great song offering real substance for singers to mine. Thanks forreminding me of Tim hardin’s tragic career. Regards thom


  2. Thom — thanks for your comment. I watched video of Tim Hardin at Woodstock; he looks in pretty bad shape, although I could be just basing that on his later unfortunate death. Another promising young singer who didn’t make it. BTW, I really enjoy reading your “theimmortaljukebox” blog, Tim L


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