Louis "Moondog" Hardin, the enigmatic New York street performer who dressed in elaborate garb and garnered great acclaim as a composer and conducter, died on Sept. 8, 1999, of heart failure. He was 83. Born on May 26, 1916, in Marysville, Kan., Hardin began his musical career as a percussionist in his high school band. In 1929, he lost his sight when a dynamite cap exploded in his hands. Following the accident, Hardin attended the Iowa School For The Blind and the Missouri School For The Blind, where he studied stringed instruments, organ and harmony. He also learned to compose in braille.
Hardin lived in Batesville, Ark., until 1942, when he won a scholarship to continue studying music in Memphis. The following year, he relocated to Manhattan and befriended members of the New York Philharmonic, who introduced him to conductors Artur Rodzinski, Leonard Bernstein, and Toscanini. Impressed by his talent, Rodzinski encouraged Hardin in his ambition to compose orchestral works.
In spite of his blindness, Hardin managed to combine life as a street performer with an extraordinary professional career. He wrote music for radio, film and TV, performed his chamber and symphony scores for audiences in Paris and Stockhom, and conducted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. In addition, one of his original songs - "All Is Loneliness" - became a pop hit for Janis Joplin in the late '60s.
In 1947, Hardin adopted the moniker "Moondog," in honor of a childhood pet. He is believed to be survived by a younger brother, Creighton Hardin, a daugher, June Hardin, and another daughter whose name and whereabouts are unknown.