March 28

To The Chasers, “If I Were a Carpenter” by Johnny and June

Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” reached the top of the pop, soul and country charts when recorded by Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, and Johnny Cash. Hardin composed it as he rose in the early 1960’s New York folk scene. Even Bob Dylan was amazed at his huge gift for writing songs of romantic hope and misery. Instilled in him also, was a fine, tremulous voice that could transfer his songs’ genuine feelings.

The Inspiration

Tim Hardin’s ruined marriage to Susan Yardley Morss, a television actress who came from a wealthy family, inspired  “If I Were a Carpenter”. Hardin logged it for his second album, Tim Hardin 2, in 1967. Over a modest backing of acoustic guitar, bass, and fast percussion, his voice transports a regretful sadness. It hums about romantic insecurity. The striking opening lines of gets straight to the point,

“If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway?

Would you have my baby?”

 Adding conviction, the chorus contains the lamenting,

“Save my love through loneliness, save my love for sorrow

I’ve given you my only-ness, give me your tomorrow.”

Some Versions of “If I Were a Carpenter”

To The Chasers, “If I Were a Carpenter” by Johnny and June 1

The song had its first hit with Bobby Darin with an arrangement that supplemented lush strings to its folk structure. Nevertheless, his delivery lacks the persuasion that the composer gave it.

Johnny Cash and June Carter also tweaked the lyrics in favor of their 1969 call-and-response version.

“If I Were a Carpenter,” is within Cash’s album Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. The song is a famous duet Johnny Cash had with his wife, June Carter Cash. This earned the couple a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1971. The song also reached the second spot on the Country charts. Later on, Dolly Parton resounded Cash and Carter in her 2005 duet with Joe Nichols, turning it into glorious, banjo-driven country fare.

These, however, are not all versions of the song. We are interested to hear from our readers. Who would you like to hear singing ‘If I Were a Carpenter’? For now, we deliver Johnny and June’s lovable version. Do not forget to share.


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