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I discovered the music of Harry Chapin in college. The campus radio station played his story song "Taxi" quite a bit, and when they hadn't played the six-minutes-plus song in a while, my friend and I would call to request it. A graduation present from that friend was the LP "Heads & Tales", Harry Chapin's first solo album. She had another year to go to get her degree, but I went on to grad school in a different town.
That fall, Harry came to my new campus. Everyone else was busy, but I wanted to hear him sing. I spent $1.50 on a ticket to sit in the cheap seats, and Harry played to us as much as he played to those in the front row. Only four musicians, four instruments. Sweet music, sad music, rollicking songs, thoughtful songs, and many, many "story songs". I went out the next day and spent $3.98 on Harry's second album, "Sniper and Other Love Songs".
That spring, the third album, "Short Stories" came out. It contained many of the new songs Harry had sung for us in concert, along with a photo of the singer on the inside cover that someone from the campus newspaper had snapped during the concert. More albums were added to my collection, one a year, all through the Seventies. Life moved on. My husband and I attended a Harry Chapin concert in Madison in the fall of 1977 (cheap seats were now $6.00), again a full show of sing-alongs, silences, laughter and tears, shouts and whistles and cheers and calls for encore after encore.
July 16, 1981... The day the music died for me. Harry Chapin, 38, died of cardiac arrest in a car crash on the Long Island Expressway. It was not determined which had caused which, but there would be no more new story songs that he was known for. There would be no more benefits for poverty and world hunger that he had given so much of his energy to. There would be no more thought-provoking lyrics. I played those nine vinyl disks over and over, the nine studio albums that were produced in his lifetime. I sang along with every word. I knew every nuance of those recordings. I still do, from the first song (Taxi) on his first album to the last song (Remember When the Music) on his last album, two of my very favorites.
I've included some video links to some performances here. The clips are long ones; the songs in them tell stories, Harry Chapin's hallmark. The first one listed is of Bruce Springsteen at the 1987 Harry Chapin tribute concert. Listen to it all the way through. In the middle, the Boss explains what the song means and who the man Harry Chapin was. Listen. (Note: The video clips have nothing to do with solving the puzzle.)
"Remember When the Music": Springsteen’s tribute
”Taxi” in concert
”A Better Place to Be" in concert (intro by Sandy Chapin)
”Mr. Tanner” in concert
I've also listed below some songs that I like from Harry Chapin's nine studio albums. Favorites? No, because that is like choosing a favorite child. I like them all, but some a bit more than others.
- ”What Made America Famous”
- ”Mr. Tanner”
- ”Stop Singing These Sad Songs”
- ”There Was Only One Choice”
- ”Dreams Go By”
- ”A Better Place to Be”
- ”Any Old Kind of Day”
- ”I Wonder What Would Happen to This World”
- ”Remember When the Music”
- ”Cat’s in the Cradle”
- ”The Rock”
- ”30,000 Punds of Bananas”
- ”I Wanna Learn a Love Song”
"Remember when the music...".
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