HARRY CHAPIN (1942-1981)
Harry Chapin followed in a great tradition of story tellers. His music touched a generation of fans, his unique singing and song writing ability endeared him to many. 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.
Born December 7, 1942, Chapin played in the Brooklyn Heights Boys' Choir and during his teens formed a group with his brothers, Tom and Stephen. Immensely talented as a writer and film-maker, he directed the Oscar-nominated Legendary Champions in 1968, after which he returned to music.
After placing an ad in The Village Voice in 1971, Harry formed a group with John Wallace (bass), Ron Palmer (guitar) and Tim Scott (cello) and played in various clubs in New York. The following year, Chapin and his group were offered a recording contract by Elektra Records. The debut Heads And Tales and the six-minute single "Taxi" enjoyed minor success in the US charts. Chapin's strength as a writer was already emerging in the form of fascinating narrative songs, which often had a twist in the tale. Harry's third album Short Stories produced "W-O-L-D," an acute observation of the life of a local disc jockey which went on to become something of an FM radio classic.
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. In 1974, Chapin secured the US Christmas number 1 single with the evocative "Cat's In The Cradle", a moral warning on the dangers of placing careerism above family life. In the song, the neglectful father realizes too late that he has no relationship with his son, who abandons him in his old age.
Taking a break from recording and touring Harry began working on a musical The Night that Made America Famous. The musical earned him two Tony nominations and ran for 2 months with 75 performances. That same year, 1975, he also won an Emmy award for his musical work on the children's television series, Make A Wish.
Harry then released Portrait Gallery, which was followed up the next year by Greatest Stories Live, a double live album that won a gold record award. In 1980 Harry Released Sequel, the title track being the sequel to Harry’s first hit "Taxi". The song was an instant top 40 hit, sadly Harry’s last.
One can not tell Harry’s story without including his charity work. During his life Harry worked hard to further causes he believed in. In 1975 he help found the World Hunger Year, which pulled in over $350,000 its first year in the quest to aid famine victims. During the late 1970's, Chapin became increasingly involved in politics. Harry served as a Democratic delegate at the 1976 Presidential Convention, and later met with President Carter to lobby for the establishment of a Presidential Commission on Hunger. He also played many benefit concerts, raising millions of dollars in the process.
On July 16 1981, while traveling to a benefit concert, his car was hit by a truck in Jericho, New York, and the singer was killed. 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 a new generation of fans have discovered the magic of Harry's work. With Harry's music now being played on CD instead of vinyl, and fans enthusiastically supporting Harry's charities, the circle continues....
This biographical sketch was blended from material that appears on the iconoFAN Network (http://www.iconofan.com) and Excite Music (http://music.excite.com) web sites.