Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury, and gave his birth date as April 12, 1932. The son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother, he grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and was a loner, eventually dropping out of high school.
His interest in American popular music (chiefly from the 1890s to the 1930s) began at a young age, as did his desire to be a singer, and accordingly he learned guitar and ukulele. His first performances under the alias Larry Love took place in the early ’50s, and according to legend, he debuted at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called the Page 3, where he became a regular. Khaury performed at small clubs, parties, and talent shows under a variety of names; his parents tried to discourage him at first, but relented when they saw that not every gig ended in ridicule.
His earliest performances took place in small, bar scenes and were often met with heckles and jeers. However, in the early 1950’s, while playing at the lesbian bar, Page 3, in Greenwich Village, under the name Larry Love the Singing Canary, the reception of the crowd was laughter and cheers, thus introducing Tim to the audience he would perform for – those outside of the mainstream culture. By the early 1960’s, Tim had gained such a large fan base in Greenwich Village, and such recognition in that area, that he began pulling in the job offers and, where he was meant to do only a song, would take over the venue.
As his popularity grew, so did his desire to experiment with his music. Tim began incorporating elements of popular songs into parodied renditions, a technique that proved a hit and changed the course of his career. In 1968, Tim appeared in You Are What You Eat, a semi-documentary film chronicling the emergence of American counter-cultures and the developing hippie scene taking over the country. The film brought Tim to the attention of comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and the duo arranged for Tim to appear on their show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, resulting in success and a regular spot on television for the quirky performer.
In September 1996, he suffered a heart attack just as he began singing at a ukulele festival at the Montague Grange Hall often confused in accounts of the incident with the nearby Montague Bookmill, at which he had recorded a video interview earlier that same day in Montague, Massachusetts. He was hospitalized at the nearby Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield for approximately three weeks, before being discharged with strong admonitions not to perform again because of his health and the dietary needs for his diabetic and heart conditions. Nevertheless, he ignored the advice. While playing at a Gala Benefit at The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis on November 30, he had a second heart attack on stage and he later died at the Hennepin County Medical Center. He is entombed in a mausoleum in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.