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Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin's career as a popular singer/songwriter was cut short by an auto accident in 1981, yet he left behind a series of recordings that his fans continue to treasure decades after his death. Chapin was never a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter. Critics accused him of over-sentimentalizing his subjects and attaching heavy-handed morals to his socially aware story-songs; the heavily orchestrated arrangements that accompanied many of his songs didn't help his case with the critics, either. Nevertheless, Chapin earned a devoted audience during the '70s, through his music and his charity work as a social activist.

Chapin began performing while he was in high school, singing in the Brooklyn Heights Boys' Choir and forming a band with his brothers Tom and Stephen. During college, he decided to pursue a career as a documentary filmmaker; in 1968, he directed the Oscar-nominated Legendary Champions. In 1971, he switched his career, concentrating on music. Chapin recruited a backing band through an ad in the Village Voice; the respondents included bassist John Wallace, guitarist Ron Palmer, and cellist Tim Scott. The group began performing in various clubs around New York and the singer/songwriter was soon signed to Elektra Records.

Heads and Tails, Chapin's first album, was released in the summer of 1972 and became a success thanks to the hit single "Taxi," which soon became the songwriter's signature tune. Later that year, he released his second album, Sniper and Other Love Songs, which didn't fare quite as well as his debut. Short Stories, Chapin's third album, appeared in the spring of 1973; it spent 23 weeks on the chart due to the success of the single "W.O.L.D.," a story about the life of a disc jockey. After recording his fourth album, Verities and Balderdash, Chapin disbanded his backing band and began work on his musical The Night That Made America Famous; both Wallace and cellist Michael Masters worked on the show, along with guitarist Doug Walker, drummer Howie Fields, and Chapin's brothers Tom, Steve, and Jim. While he was working on the musical, Verities and Balderdash became his biggest hit, peaking at number four on the U.S. charts and becoming a gold record. The album's success was benefited by the number-one single "Cat's in the Cradle," a song about an inconsiderate, career-oriented father that was based on a poem written by Chapin's wife.

The Night That Made America Famous opened on February 26, 1975. It closed on April 6, after 75 performances; the show would earn two Tony nominations. Chapin won an Emmy award that spring for his contributions to ABC television's children's series Make a Wish, which was hosted by his brother Tom. That spring, the singer/songwriter co-founded World Hunger Year, a charity designed to raise money to fight international famine; the organization earned over $350,000 in its first year. In the fall of 1975, Chapin delivered Portrait Gallery, his follow-up to Verities and Balderdash. While the album performed respectably, peaking at number 53, it failed to recapture the mass audience of his previous album.

Greatest Stories -- Live, a double album released in the spring of 1976, became the singer/songwriter's second gold album, peaking at number 48. Chapin was becoming more politically active throughout 1976, as evidenced by his role as a delegate at that summer's Democratic Convention. Late in 1976, he released On the Road to Kingdom Come, which spent a mere six weeks on the charts. The 1977 double-album Dance Band on the Titanic was on the charts for a few more weeks, yet it didn't spawn a hit single. The following year, Chapin met with President Jimmy Carter, discussing the need for a Presidential Commission on Hunger; he also released Living Room Suite that summer, which peaked at number 133.

Chapin released a second live album, Legends of the Lost and Found -- New Greatest Stories Live, in the fall of 1979; it was his least-successful album, spending only three weeks on the charts. In 1980, he signed with Boardwalk Records, releasing Sequel that fall; the title track of the album was a sequel to his first hit single, "Taxi," and became his last Top 40 hit.

On July 16, 1981, Chapin was driving to a business meeting on the Long Island Expressway near Jericho, NY, when his car was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. The accident caused his gas tank to explode, killing the singer/songwriter in the process. A memorial fund was established in his name following his death, with Elektra Records providing the initial donation of 10,000 dollars. Over the years, the fund has raised an estimated $5 million, which has gone to a variety of social causes that were close to Chapin's heart. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Story Of A Life (Box Set)

Disc 1

1. Taxi

2. Someone Keeps Calling My Name

3. Could You Put Your Light On, Please

4. Empty

5. Greyhound

6. Any Old Kind Of Day

7. Sunday Morning Sunshine

8. Sniper

9. Better Place To Be

10. They Call Her Easy

11. Mr. Tanner

12. Mail Order Annie

13. W*O*L*D

14. Old College Avenue

15. Circle

Disc 2

1. Short Stories

2. Cat's In The Cradle

3. I Wanna Learn A Love Song

4. 30,000 Pounds Of Bananas (Live)

5. Shooting Star

6. What Made America Famous?

7. Vacancy

8. Dreams Go By

9. Tangled Up Puppet

10. The Rock

11. She Is Always Seventeen

12. The Mayor Of Candor Lied

13. Caroline

14. Laugh Man

15. Taxi (Live)

Disc 3

1. Corey's Coming

2. If My Mary Were Here

3. Dance Band On The Titanic

4. Mismatch

5. I Wonder What Happened To Him

6. Dancin' Boy

7. Flowers Are Red (Live)

8. Poor Damned Fool

9. Jenny

10. I Wonder What Would Happen To This World

11. Old Folkie (Live)

12. Remember When The Music (Reprise)

14. Story Of A Life

15. November Rains

16. Sequel

17. Last Stand


Track List: Greatest Stories (Live)

1. Dreams Go By (Live)

2. W*O*L*D* (Live)

3. Saturday Morning (Live)

4. I Wanna Learn A Love Song (Live)

5. Mr. Tanner (Live)

6. A Better Place To Be (Live)

7. Let Time Go Lightly (Live)

8. Cat's In The Cradle (Live)

9. Taxi (Live)

10. Circle (Live)

11. 30,000 Pounds Of Bananas (Live)

12. She Is Always Seventeen (Live)


Track List: Verities & Balderdash

1. Cat's In The Cradle

2. I Wanna Learn A Love Song

3. Shooting Star

4. 30,000 Pounds of Bananas

5. She Sings Songs Without Words

6. What Made America Famous?

7. Vacancy

8. Halfway to Heaven

9. Six String Orchestra


Track List: Sequel

1. Sequel

3. Story Of A Life

10. Remember When The Music (Reprise)


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RPC, my name. . . Would have loved to just shake his hand,, out of date ofcoarse,,, nevertheless . .
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I swore as a kid I'd never repeat Cats in the Cradle which I was living in my family, yet when I grew up I found myself being that kid too far away and too busy to go see my dad much before he died. Thank you Harry for letting me know we aren't the only ones...
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harryandshir l e y
I find myself going back to Harry after all these years. Good memories, great d i o c r e singer...... . . . N e v e r forget.
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Harry had 11 initial albums. One thing i noticed over the years and albums was this intersting tidbit. On at least one of his lps was a little fact. No matter how you were feeling, happy, sad, down or what you going through at the time he always had at least one song that seemed to fit the given situation to a T! Seemed he was always singing just for you alone
Uncanny to say the least. He was always there whenever i needed him and _
His music. Still manages to do thos from lp1 to
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good times
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When I was growing up and sappy drivel like Chapin or Jim Croce came on the radio we changed the station. Thumbs down
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I'm so proud of you you deserve the name sunshine Mike your mimi
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I will let you love me all the way my darling Mike your mimi
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And this song and Cat Stevens " Father and Son " inspired all fathers of my generation
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His brother was a fine tune smith in his own right and did a lot of work with children. And his dad was Jim Chapin who's drum primer was gospel to my generation and Jim was a great big band drummer!
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Hearing this song in my younger years inspired me to do more things with my children as they were growing. You can like a song but not many songs can move you so much as to affect your behavior, especially long term. To Harry - for moving me in a good way.
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Saw him many years ago at the old Olympia Stadium in Detroit. The concert included Harry, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, and James Taylor in the round, all on the stage at the same time. It was a benefit for Harry's charity for World Hunger. Just wish they would have made an album of the concert, it would have sold millions.
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justinjenny4 9 5
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Met in 1970 followed to area college campuses, att over Atlanta , best at south Eastern Music Hall off Peidmont . His work and view on World Hunger ahead of his time , in the movement, have all recording and " cotton Patch gospel ". Corie's coming and Mr. Tanner favorite . Tragic loss of a true talent, family great too .
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He was Great. I saw him at Bergen comm college in nj and in Morristown nj I miss him big time
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I agree-- I fell in love with his music while living overseas and was looking forward to seeing him once I got back home.....
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Loved Harry. Such a talented story teller. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see him live.
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Such a good song
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Great song about life
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Love the stories people clearly want to share about Harry Chapin. A great storyteller and a kind heart.
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mysteriousst r a n g e r s 8 6
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angelaknowle s 7 1
Love it ...:) Big Harry fan ♡♡♡
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Saw Harry in Lake Tahoe, I had to talk my wife and neighbors into seeing him. The show was great and he talked to us after the show. I still have the program from that night. He died a week later, bummer.
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miss harry
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I was 5cars behind Harry on the freeway and didn't know it was him how died on that tragect day. I found out later that DAT what happen. Still miss his voice and music
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Harry Chapin is the best but my only problem is his songs always play when I leave and turn of pandora
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you are my dancing guy
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Saw him in concert in Nashville. Just him with his guitar. He said he was not doing anything after the concert, and if we would like to meet him and buy his book of poetry, he would stay all night. He did and was very gracious to every one. He autographed his book (profits went to world hunger) and shook my hand. That book is now framed on my wall with the ticket. Great night!
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Wonderful human being and musician!
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pmeredith_mm t
I never saw him but love his music even more as I get older
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I too, think the bio is a bit too harsh (Ever hear the song Mr. Tanner?). Only heard Harry Chapin in concert once. Magnificent. He touched the audience in a way few performers do. His songs were so from the heart that you could not be moved.

But as great as the songs are, what Harry Chapin did best was to show us how to give back to others. His benefit concerts showed the size of his heart as does his charity founded in his memory. Listen to Springsteen' s tribute sometime.
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Saw him only once in London, fabulous. Have all his albums and they get many plays - love the stories.
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Love and miss Harry. His music will live on forever
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I produced 2 concerts with Harry as the headliner in Chicago and South Bend Indiana back in the day. Neither one of them went very well but I'm so glad I got a chance to meet Harry; I still love his music!
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I Love Story Songs. TAXI
Harry. Chapin
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I remember hearing TAXI on the radio in 1972 , not long after hearing Don Mcleans America Pie 2 songs I'll always remember and I'm 66. Can't remember what I had for lunch but I can remember the words to those 2 songs Thanks Pandora
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Met Harry when I was on the road in Racine, Wisconsin. He really missed his family when he traveled. Kind man. I have an album he signed. Means a lot to me.
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Harry is home. In "that" I am, grace won the helmet. Homer.
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I loved Harry the moment I heard him at Rutgers, he expressed the things we had in our hearts. I have all his albums and can't pick a favorite. Harry's songs will live on forever. So will his morality.
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Saw him on last tour when he hit Purdue. It was my lesson to do things when yo have the chance, because there may never be a second. Love Taxi...
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i cried when he died and still crave his music i will never forget you Harry such a good man gone much too soon...

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Whenever I want to listen to some music that touches my soul I turn to Harry Chapin's classics. Wonder what those critics were listening to. God bless you Harry.
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Don't agree with the comments on this page regarding his 'bio'. ..was never a critically acclaimed singer/songw r i t e r . Critics accused him of over-sentime n t a l i z i n g his subjects ... Rubbish Pandora. Harry wrote some great songs that hit the spot with so many people!
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Don't agree with the comments on this page regarding his 'bio'. ..was never a critically acclaimed singer/songw r i t e r . Critics accused him of over-sentime n t a l i z i n g his subjects ... Rubbish Pandora,
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