Harry Chapin followed in the great tradition
of musical storytellers. His music touched a generation of fans with his
unique singing and song writing ability. The critics never understood,
as they often don’t, they labeled Harry overly sentimental, yet it was
this very sentimentality that made him so popular.
Harry began singing in High School in Brooklyn
Heights. At this point he had formed a band with his brothers, but once
off to college he pursued a career as a filmmaker, it is perhaps in this
love for film that Harry developed his ability as a storyteller. One of
the films Harry directed, Legendary Champions, received an Oscar nomination.
But in 1971 He longed to return to music.
After placing an ad in the New York newspaper the Village Voice, Harry
rounded up a band consisting of Tim Scott, John Wallace, and Ron Palmer.
While playing on the New York club circuit the band was discovered by Elektra
records and were offered a record contract.
The bands first release was titled Heads
and Tails. This 1972 release spawned a hit with the song “taxi”, and the
album sold well. It was Harry’s third album Short Stories, that really
propelled him on to the charts aided by the hit song “W.O.L.D.”
From there Harry produced his next album
Verities and Balderdash which proved to be Harry’s most successful record
by landing the number 4 spot on the Billboard charts. The album contained
one of Harry’s most famous songs “Cat’s in the Cradle”, which tells the
story of workaholic father’s distant relationship with his son. The song
is said to have been inspired by a poem written by Harry’s wife.
Taking a break from recording and touring,
Harry began working on a musical “The Night that Made America Famous” which
earned him two Tony nominations and ran for 2 months with 75 performances.
After the close of the musical Harry released
Portrait Gallery, which was followed up the next year by Greatest Stories
Live. Greatest Stories, went gold and hit number 48 on Billboard.
In 1980 Harry Released Sequel, the title
tract was the sequel to Harry’s first hit “Taxi”. The song was an instant
top 40 hit, sadly Harry’s last.
An Auto accident claimed Harry’s life on
July 16, 1981. This great storyteller and songwriter has been greatly missed
since. There have been a number of tributes to Harry, the heavy metal band
Ugly Kid Joe took the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” back to the top of the
charts in the early 90’s with their remake.
One cannot tell Harry’s story without including
a mention of his charity work. During his life Harry worked hard to further
causes he believed in. In 1975 he helped form the World Hunger Year, which
pulled in over $350,000 it’s first year in the quest to aid famine victims.
Harry also served as a Democratic Delegate to the 1976 Presidential Convention,
and later met with President Carter to lobby for the establishment of a
Presidential Commission on Hunger. Harry also won an Emmy award for work
he did on the children television program “Make a Wish”.
After his death a memorial fund was established
in his name, with Elektra records donating $10,000 on Harry’s behalf. The
fund has raised millions for causes that Harry cared deeply about.
Harry’s stories have continued to live
on as new generations of fans have discovered the magic of Harry’s work.
Every year new fans find the magic in Harry’s music and stories and some
continue to enthusiastically support Harry’s charities, the circle continues....