Tim Finn is a musician and singer from New Zealand. Born in 1952 as Brian Timothy Finn, Tim’s career in music began during the 1970’s and continues to flourish to this day. Known all over the world, the music of Tim Finn has received wide acclaim. Finn’s music has been featured on albums, in motion pictures, television, for dance, opera and theatrical stage performances.
Tim Finn originally hails from Te Awamutu, New Zealand. After spending his school years at a Catholic boarding school in Auckland, he studied at the University of Auckland. While at college, Tim began his association with a group of friends that would later become the band Split Enz. With music as his main objective, Tim left university to pursue his career full time.
Origins of Split Enz
The musical career of Tim Finn will always be linked with the New Zealand band Split Enz. Formed in 1972, the group featured Tim, Phil Judd and later his brother Neil Finn. With these three creative musicians at the helm, Split Enz would become one of the most recognizable musical acts in New Zealand, Australia and North America.
Critics would describe their musical style as “eclectic.” This was due in part because of their inclusion of rock, pop, swing, punk and 80’s new wave. Another aspect of their creativity stemmed from their original visual appearances, not the least of which reflected their distinctive hairstyles, makeup, and theatrical costumes.
Split Ends Becomes Split Enz
Originally named Split Ends, the band was formed by Tim Finn and high school friend, Jonathan Michael Chunn. After graduation, the two attended Auckland University where they continued to write and play their own music. While at college, several additional musicians were added to their musical endeavor. Art students Philip Judd, Rob Gillies and Geoffrey Noel Crombie would join the band. The name was changed from Split Ends to Split Enz; the initials “NZ” as a sign of pride in their native New Zealand.
During their initial years, the group played acoustic instruments and were seen primarily as a folk-oriented band. By the time the band recorded their first album, they would switch to electric instruments to develop more of progressive rock-oriented sound. When founding member Phil Judd left the band in 1977, Split Enz would transition further into new wave and pop music with Neil Finn taking his place.
Split Enz would experience their most far reaching success during the early 1980’s. The band gained increased popularity when music videos accompanied their albums, making them one of the first bands to benefit from early exposure on MTV. Although no longer consistently front and center, Tim Finn added several songs to the album Conflicting Emotions.
After actively performing with Split Enz, Tim began his career as a solo singer, musician and performer. Although he was to contribute to Split Enz as late as 1984, Finn saw a former demo record he wrote recorded by the Australian group Jimmy and the Boys. That song, “They Won’t let My Girlfriend Talk to Me” became a hit for the band, entering the Australian music industry Top Ten List in 1981.
Following that success, Tim Finn recorded his first album as a solo performer entitled Escapade in 1983. Although still contributing to Split Enz, Finn’s song “Fraction Too Much Friction” became a minor hit in both New Zealand and Australia. Soon after, Tim moved to London to further explore his talents. While working in the United Kingdom, Tim Finn released his second solo work Big Canoe.
Music and Social Causes
The music contained on Big Canoe marked a significant change from his prior work with Split Enz. The album contained a diverse range of sounds, including both western instruments like guitars and those traditionally used in East Indian music. Perhaps the most talked about song from this album was the single, “No Thunder, No Fire, No Rain” dedicated to the massive Bhopal chemical disaster in India. While the album Big Canoe scored on music charts in his native New Zealand, it failed to become a hit and secure a much larger world audience.
Tim Finn moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1989 where he released an album entitled Tim Finn. The commitment to social change and charitable causes that Tim demonstrated in his early work continued to play a large role in his musical style. This album featured the song, “Parihaka” about the Maori people of New Zealand and their struggles against European occupation. The message of his album garnered notice amongst fans and excellent reviews from even the toughest critics.
Tim Finn’s Live Albums
During a tour with Dave Dobbyn and Bic Runga, Tim Finn recorded the album Together in Concert: Live in the year 2000. The album was recorded as performed in front of enthusiastic audiences in New Zealand. All of the concerts on this tour featured these three musicians contributing to the music of the others.
Soundtracks, Television and Motion Pictures
The versatility of Tim Finn’s stage performances led him to try his hand at acting, as well as composing music for television and motion picture soundtracks. Tim had a cameo role in the movie, The Coca-Cola Kid and another role in the Italian film, La Donna Della Luna. Trying his hand at comedy, Tim also played a major role in the 2010 film Predicament.
As a composer for film and television, Finn added to the soundtrack for such films as Puberty Blues and Les Patterson Saves the World. Tim Finn wrote songs for several other major motion pictures, including the song “Winter Light” for the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The same song would also be included on his Imaginary Kingdom album.
Tim Finn once again began to perform with his brother Neil, who was now fronting a band named Crowded House. Finn later added several tracks to the band’s first album Crowded House. Performing with Neil and Crowded House, Tim also wrote songs for the band’s next album Woodface, including “Four Seasons in One Day” and “Weather with You.” After touring to promote this album, Finn once again concentrated on his solo career.
Tim would write and perform again with his brother Neil. The album Finn was released in 1995, with the brothers calling themselves the Finn Brothers. The Finn Brothers toured extensively in North America, Europe and Australia. The Finn Brothers later released their second album, Everyone Is Here.
That year also saw Tim Finn form another band named ALT, with Andy White and Liam O’Maonlai of Ireland. With a band name comprised of the initials of their first names, the group released and toured the world to promote their album entitled Altitude. Tim Finn was asked to perform as a guest musician with Peter Gabriel, contributing his talents to the album Big Blue Ball in 2008.
This album was released by Tim Finn as a solo performer in 1998. The name of this collection of music is derived from the name of a performance by the Sidney Theatre Company of Australia. Each of the songs were written and performed by Tim as a musical backdrop for the innovative dance choreography of the group.
Ladies in Black
In addition to his soundtracks for television, motion pictures and dance, Tim Finn as written two major theatrical compositions. His opera Star Navigator was performed by the Victorian Opera, West Australian Opera and the New Zealand Opera Company. In November 2015, Finn premiered the stage musical Ladies in Black in Brisbane, Australia as performed by the Queensland Theatre Company. Based on the novel “The Women in Black” by author Madeleine St. John and a book for the stage written by Carolyn Burns, the play features music and lyrics composed by Tim Finn.
Awards and Honours
Tim Finn and his brother Neil have been honoured with a number of prestigious awards. For their service to their native New Zealand and its music industry, the brothers were accepted onto the “Queen’s Birthday Honours” list in 1993. In the year 2000, “Tim Finn Day” was proclaimed in the American city of Pittsburgh, PA during Tim’s tour of the United States. The group Split Enz was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame. Tim Finn and the other former band members of Split Enz, performed such hits as “Poor Boy” and “History Never Repeats” at the awards ceremony.