Hard Times (James Taylor song)
|Single by James Taylor|
|from the album Dad Loves His Work|
"Hard Times" is a song written by James Taylor. It first appeared on his 1981 album Dad Loves His Work. It was also released as a single, as the follow up to the Top-20 hit "Her Town Too." It did not perform as well as its predecessor, reaching #72 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #23 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The single's b-side, "Summer's Here," performed similarly on the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at #25.
Like several other songs from Dad Loves His Work, "Hard Times" was influenced by the impending breakup of Taylor's marriage to Carly Simon. Fans heard the song as a message that the marriage was about to end. According to Rolling Stone Magazine critic Don Shewey, it "explores marriage on the rocks." The lyrics describe the difficulty for an "angry man" and a "hungry woman" to stay together. They lament the way the pair hurt each other.
Allmusic critic William Ruhlmann regarded both "Hard Times" and "Summer's Here" among the better songs on Dad Loves His Work, helping Taylor bounce back from his previous "spotty" album Flag. Musician, Player, and Listener described it as sounding "more personal - especially as regards marital problems - than anything [Taylor] committed to wax in years." Web critic David Bertrand Wilson called it a "charming low-key tune." Michigan Daily critic Ari Roth stated that "Hard Times" "assert[s] a dependency and will to achievement that Taylor has never previously articulated." Michael Hochandel of Schenectady Gazette reported that "Hard Times" received as much applause in 1981 live performaces as Taylor's classics.
"Hard Times" was chosen for inclusion in the soundtrack to the 2002 PBS documentary Freedom: A History of Us. Allmusic' William Ruhlmann lamented its exclusion from the 2000 compilation album Greatest Hits Volume 2.
The b-side of the "Hard Times" single, "Summer's Here" also performed well on the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at #25. "Summer's Here" entered the Adult Contemporary chart on August 1, 1981, while "Hard Times" was still in the Top 50. "Summer's Here" performed even better on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart, reaching #12.
Montreal Gazette critic John Griffin described "Summer's Here" as "simply a goofy ode to 'my favorite time of year.'" Although the character in the song states that summer is his favorite season, Taylor has claimed that this is just that character speaking, and that Taylor's own favorite season is the Fall and his favorite month is October. The lyrics to "Summer's Here" incorporate a common trope in Taylor's songs, that of the open sea.
Schenectady Gazette critic Michael Hochandel described the music of "Summer's Here" as reggae. Musician, Player, and Listener similarly described it as having Caribbean influence, calling it a "momentary ray of sunshine." Taylor biographer Timothy White called the song "infectious." Terry Hazlet of the Observer-Reporter rated "Summer's Here" as the best song on Dad Loves His Work and "the closest Taylor came to his real roots," albeit because he considered it "simplistic" and because the focus on objects such as sandals, beer and hats "make the human element," which he found lacking on other songs on the album, "unnecessary."
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