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Tiny Tim

Herbert Khaury (April 12, probably 1932 - November 30, 1996), better known by the pseudonym Tiny Tim, was an American singer and ukulele player. He is most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" sung in his distinctive high falsetto. He is generally thought of as a novelty act, though his records display a wide knowledge of American songs and genuine musicality.

Tiny Tim's year of birth is unclear - he lied about his age on a number of occasions, and various sources give 1933, 1932, 1930, 1926 or 1922, although shortly before his death he said he was 64 years old, which would put his year of birth at 1932.

He was born in New York City, the son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother. Legend has it that he first sang in a lesbian cabaret bar, but he certainly went on to sing in a very wide variety of clubs and bars, as well as entering a large number of talent competitions in an attempt to be discovered. He used a number of pseudonyms, but eventually settled on naming himself Tiny Tim, after the character from Dickens' A Christmas Carol (see below).

Tiny Tim already had something of a cult following around New York when he appeared in the film You Are What You Eat. This led to a booking on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, which turned out to be his big break. Appearances on the shows of Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason followed, and he made a name for himself as a novelty performer. As well as his extraordinarily high falsetto voice, his appearance - long curly hair, large nose, six foot one in height and clutching his relatively tiny ukulele - helped him in standing out from the crowd.

In 1968, his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, was recorded. It contained a version of what was his signature song, "Tiptoe Thru The Tulips", which was a hit when released as a single. The other songs displayed his wide-ranging knowledge of the American songbook, and also allowed him to demonstrate his baritone voice, which was less often heard than his falsetto. On one track, a version of "I Got You Babe", he sang a duet with himself, taking one part in falsetto, and the other in the baritone range.

The following year, he recorded and released two more albums, Tiny Tim's Second Album[?], and For All My Little Friends[?], a collection of children's songs. Also in 1969, he married Victoria May Budinger ("Miss Vicky") on the Johnny Carson show, a publicity stunt which attracted 40 million viewers (the two were to divorce eight years later).

After that, however, the television appearances dried up, and he became rather more obscure. He continued to play around the United States, and got several lucrative gigs in Las Vegas before things got so bad that in 1985, he resorted to joining a circus for eight months. He briefly lived in Australia, then moved to Des Moines, Iowa before marrying for the third time (his second marriage had lasted for just one month) and moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the 1990s, interest in Tiny Tim seemed to pick up a little. He began to release records again, including I Love Me (1995) and Girl (1996), as well as appearing on Conan O'Brien's show. He also worked with a number of other artists, including Brave Combo (who were his backing band for Girl) and was championed by, and collaborated with, Current 93[?] and Nurse With Wound[?].

In September 1996, he suffered a heart attack, but continued to play concerts when he was released from hospital. However, while playing "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips" at a concert in Minneapolis, he suffered a further heart attack, and died.

Sound sample

The name "Tiny Tim", as used by the singer, was borrowed from a character in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This Tiny Tim was the youngest child of Bob Cratchit[?], the poor and ill-treated clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge. In a dream on Christmas night, Scrooge witnesses the meagre Christmas celebrations of the Cratchit family, and is moved by the sweet nature of crippled Tiny Tim. He foresees the child's possible death, and it is this, more than any other single thing, that causes his change of heart.

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