Tim Hart: Founder-member of Steeleye Span

Best known for the years he spent as a founding member of the English electric folk-rock band Steeleye Span, Tim Hart was a singer and multi-instrumentalist who also turned his hand to writing and photography.

He did this after retiring from the music industry to live on the lushly forested island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, for which he published the first English-language tourist guide.

Although Steeleye Span were preceded by Fairport Convention as the first truly great exponents of the genre (one of whom, Ashley "Tyger" Hutchings, would initiate Steeleye Span's first line-up in December, 1969) they were arguably more successful. As Hart explained of their brief: "The original idea was to combine English and Irish material and to get traditional performers to present traditional material in a way that would be acceptable to rock audiences."

And so it was, on often chaotic but enthusiastically received tours of the US, Australia, the UK and elsewhere during their '70s heyday, touring with the likes of Jethro Tull and Procol Harum before the arrival of punk rock turned the tide of fashion. Maddy Prior was always the band's most distinctive singer, and finally left them in 1997, returning five years later. She once observed: "Steeleye Span is like a bus. It goes along, and people get on and get off it. Sometimes the bus goes along the route you want to go, and sometimes it turns off, so you get off."

Hart eventually got off in 1982, disillusioned with the lack of commercial success that greeted Sails of Silver, the 11th Steeleye Span studio album, after six major line-up changes. During his time in the group, as well as playing guitar, banjo, dulcimer and other instruments, Hart penned poetic sleeve notes, contributed material and arrangements and was often instrumental in bringing in new members such as Martin Carthy, who was the one who had come up with the group's name. Hart was romantically involved with Prior and often sang duets with her, such as "My Love". He was the featured vocalist on a number of their best-known pieces, most notably "Blackleg Miner" and "John Barleycorn". He also wrote comical poems, which Prior would read out onstage while the band tuned up – a skill he later put to use on a brace of albums of nursery rhymes he recorded with musical associates in 1981 and 1983.

Hart grew up in St Albans, where his father was a vicar. He began his career while still at St Alban's School, playing with a band called the Rattfinks. He went on to perform in the local folk club, where he met Prior in 1965. In December the following year, they formed a professional duo.

Their speciality was the obscure folk songs they found in libraries and collections, and in 1968 they released the albums, Folk Songs of Olde Engand Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Prior later said of them: "These had been recorded on a four-track machine and took as long to make as they take to play. Well, almost." With the bigger budgets afforded by the success of Steeleye Span, Hart and Prior made another duo album, Summer Solstice, in 1971, and Hart released a poorly-received eponymous solo album in 1979.

Hart first began taking photographs during the early 1970s on tour with Steeleye Span, which gave him the chance to befriend photographers documenting the band. He began including other bands, landscapes and street scenes in his work, some of which went on a touring exhibition of the US.

After leaving Steeleye Span he went into band management and produced the album Eligible Bachelors (1982) for the leftfield indie rock band Monochrome Set. In poor health after the breakdown of his first marriage, he moved in 1988 to the sunnier climes of La Gomera, where he built his own house, learned how to use a digital camera, remarried and eventually published La Gomera: A Guide to the Unspoiled Canary Island (2004).

He was persuaded to come temporarily out of retirement to rejoin Steeleye Span in 1995, for a concert in aid of the charity War Child (a recording of which emerged in 1999) and to perform with Prior and others for the BBC Electric Proms in October 2008. Two months later he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and he and his wife Conny returned to the UK to seek medical treatment for him.

Tim Hart, musician, writer and photographer: born Lincoln 9 January 1948; married twice (two daughters from first marriage): died La Gomera, Canary Islands 24 December 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent