“___ON___”: Tiny Tim

“___ON___”: Tiny Tim

In this series we’ll be hearing from a new person each month, talking on a specific topic of their choosing – something they love, a hobby, an interest, a thread they’ve been feeling lately, or a new discovery.

Andrea Elizabeth on Tiny Tim

“Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury on April 12th, 1932, in Manhattan, New York. His passion for music began at a very early age, when he was given his first gramophone player. He would visit the New York Public Library quite frequently, searching for sheet music to take home and learn. By his pre/early teens, he had taught himself how to play the guitar, mandolin, violin, and the ukulele– which would become his signature instrument. He wanted to be a music archivist, and an entertainer, and would eventually combine the two. Most (if not all) of his songs were covers, and when he performed live he would be sure to name the artist who originally performed it, before performing it himself. The song that brought him fame was his rendition of ‘Tiptoe Thru The Tulips With Me’. That song would also bring about the end of his life, as he suffered a fatal heart attack while performing it, in 1996. If that isn’t irony, then I don’t know what is.

I first got into Tiny Tim after a trip to San Francisco with a couple of friends, about three or four years ago. We had stopped in Amoeba records, and it was my very first time there. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. As I’m scouring the sections, I came across a copy of ‘God Bless Tiny Tim’. At that point in time, I was only familiar with his version of ‘Tiptoe’, but I was curious. I ended up buying it, without fully realizing the effect it would have on me. I carried that record with me through the city, and eventually on the greyhound home. Once I got back, I took over my dad’s portable record player and I began listening. I just remember thinking “wow, I love this”. I listened to it over and over and over. I just wanted to hop in a time machine and meet this man, and even now, I still wish I could. There was just something about him, and that record, that was so special.

Tiny Tim is, to me, a pure representation of what it is to be your genuine self. Although he mentions that his get-up was a “gimmick” in the beginning, I think he found comfort in it, and it became who he was. This identity wasn’t something that anyone could take from him, despite people making it into a joke. I don’t think I could articulate exactly all of the ways he is important, but that is the biggest one. He was unfeigned, beautiful, and a bit strange. He did what he felt represented him, what brought him joy, and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. All of this serves as a reminder to me, and hopefully others, that one of the most valuable things you can be, is yourself, openly and honestly. 

In closing, I just want to say that I think Tiny Tim was unique, and despite his rise, was a wildly underrated talent. His music will always hold a very special place in my heart.”