He was born in New York City as Herbert Khaury, the son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother. His year of birth is unclear - he lied about his age on a number of occasions, although shortly before his death he said he was 64 years old, which would put his year of birth at 1932.
At the age of twenty, Tiny found himself strongely attracted to a young man who lived near him, and this developed into a relationship involving some physical petting which went on for several years. But Tiny's religious beliefs caused him to feel a great deal of guilt about his feelings. When the young man married and moved away the relationship was finally broken.
He used a number of pseudonyms, but eventually settled on naming himself Tiny Tim, after the character from Dickens' A Christmas Carol . 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.
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 with Me (one of the top 40 hits of 1968), 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. On the Old Front Porch extends this to a trio, including a boy, the girl he is courting, and her father.
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. On the night of December 17, 1969, he married 17-year-old Victoria May Budinger 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.
Some of Tiny's little eccentricities include living in hotels, dyeing his hair different colors, and a regime of cleaning and moisturizing that gives his skin its typical youthful look.
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 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 in November of that year, he suffered a further heart attack, and died.