I don’t think of myself as a pessimist, at least not ALL of the time… and while it does not happen on EVERY listen, there are certain artists whose personal stories or loss makes me deeply sad.
Harry Chapin is one of them. He died on July 16, 1981 and it is a loss I remember vividly. I think Harry, John Lennon, Thurman Munson and John Belushi hit me harder and deeper than anyone other than the loss of some family or friends. I remember the news of each of their deaths personally and vividly. The thing about Harry was how beautiful a person he was and knowing how much more he would have given this world, makes his death even harder to take.
It’s also a bit of a mystery. Did he have a heart attack that caused him and his car to swerve? Or was he just driving in a beaten down automobile that failed him, because he spent his money and time giving so much back to the world and not on material things? That’s the way I choose to look at it… He was a man who gave and gave… free concerts, staunch activism… and a humanitarian fighting to end world hunger.
His efforts helped create the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977 and in 1987, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Today it’s raining… And I mean pouring, torrential, sideways, windy rain. The power has been on and off, the wind is howling and I wanted and needed to listen to something that would wrap around me like a warm, safe and cozy blanket…
Harry Chapin – Verities & Balderdash
Harry was the master of the story song. Each one has so much to say on life and the human condition… and each is so specific and beautiful.
His song “Flowers Are Red” (not on this album) should be required listening for every parent, teacher and school administrator. Incredible!!!
This one came out in 1974 and really put him on the map. The ubiquitous “Cats in the Cradle” (surprisingly his only #1) is a song we as parents should take to heart… Time flies by, and our kids need to get our full attention and devotion for as long as we can give it. I need to remember this more for sure… E-mails and BS can wait… Our kids need us now more than ever.
Apparently this song was based on a poem that his lovely wife Sandra wrote.
“I Wanna Learn a Love Song” is another fave of mine and was based on their romance.
The rest of the album moves easily and pleasantly and is the perfect Sunday listen. I still miss the man and all that he stood for… the star-shining example of an artist using his megaphone or microphone or stage to do good and to go well beyond the simple act of entertaining. I think this balance is essential, and Harry Chapin was the master. Songs and stories and messages of beauty and importance. The key must be to write great songs that make people want to listen, but then go further, and take people on a journey to make the world a better place. This is where the power of music and art comes through.
With the Chapins it was a true family business… Harry… Steve… and Tom Chapin whose music I have enjoyed over the years as well… as has my daughter when she was little with his children’s classic, Around the World And Back Again.
On days like this I can listen and love the music… but I am also sad and miss the man behind it.
RIP Harry… Thanks for the inspiration.