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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, Rovi
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Comments

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Loving his music for ever,always wonder what's else he could had brought to life as a caring and creative persona that it was.
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wfmurphy49
Loved his music. Still miss his lyrics.
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Loved him forever
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I had tickets to see him at the Garden State Art Center the week he passed. Still have them
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Big Big loss
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miss him
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I will never stop loving all his songs...
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cjsebes
What makes this song so brilliant is that the last two choruses reverse the point of view and change from When you coming home, Dad? to When you coming home, Son? Ugly Kid Joe completely botched this song when they covered it in 1992 by repeating the same chorus throughout the entire song. That was the point I lost any respect for Ugly Kid Joe.
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I love the meaning in many of Harry Chapins songs. I just love to listen to his music when alone because you can really take in the words and the meaning. Found his music in the early 80's and been listening ever since. Funny how you can feel so devastated by the death of someone you never knew.
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Harry Chaplins death is sad.Shows you that tomorrow's not promised to no one,Live Life!!
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sooo sad. dad spend time with your kid!!!!!! :(
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I cant stop crying at cats cradle
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craig.baker2 9 3 5
Loved so many of his songs....Bet t e r Place to be means a lot for many reasons...I too had often thouight about Cats in the Cradle when deciding what to do family-wise when my kids were little...his music still impacts us.
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Died inside with his passing
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Such great messages & music with meanings... He has touched many��
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It's a shame Harry was one of those artist that didn't really get the recognition he deserved until he died.
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grymreaper96
Sad song:(
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I'm going to be like you dad. A very sweet song. Rest in peace Harry
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geraghtydan
Just on the way out the door for his concert in Eisenhower Park.... when my brother delivered the sad news by phone... the world stopped turning that day as I was crushed by the proverbial 30,000 lbs of bananas. The world is at a loss without you Harry. Thank you Sandy for sharing him with us. Huntington H.S. was never so proud.
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Reminds me of my youngest son Jonathan Lee Sharp.....mi s s my son!
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cats in the cradle, our priest played this at church on fathers day it was powerful
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Harry, keep the change!. Strong
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studlyr
My sister took me to see Harry at the Bob Carr Performing Arts center in Orlando in 1980, I had no idea who he was, but it was, and still is the greatest concert I have ever been to and a great memory I had with my sister. I get sad also every time I hear his music and think yow great he could still be.
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marciaspecht , I found out like you. Only I was going to see him at the Garden state art Center the next night. I still cry when I think of how we lost him. I remember asking my self at the time, why didn't he have someone drive him. They said he had a heart attack but didn't know if it happened because of the accident or before.
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All my Life's a Circle and Flowers are Red are my favorites!!
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Time flies
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brendas318
Also to truly appreciate him, listen to his Dance Band on the Titanic album. He is a master of singing a good story. I listen to it over and over.
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riprm1957
to truly appreciate Harry Chapin you had to see him perform live in person. His concerts were a BLAST
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Now this, is a great song.
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marciaspecht
I was at Eisenhower Park waiting for Harry to arrive for a concert, when news of his death came over the radio. We, his fans, stayed for hours and listened to his music, which was played over a loudspeaker in the park! I own all of Harry's albums, and still miss him!
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kurtchamblis s
ironic that he left a son behind when he died who grew up without a dad. I for one have tried to be a better dad because of this song.
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Saw Harry in concert a few times. Loved his music. I cried when he was killed. He will always hold a special place in my heart and his music also.
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Thank you so much and rest in everlasting peace, Harry Chapman. God bless you.
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Shooting Star - my favorite.
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One of my favorite songs by him even though he has many more..yes another talent that was taken before his time! But he still lives on through his music...RIP
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jtmasem
Great story teller....va c a n c y , and what made America famous.....s o m e of his greats...
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bca2u
Harry Chapin was a genius, so sad to lose him at such a young age. There Only Was One Choice is so amazing, my favorite by him.
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dragonlady60 8 8
cats in the cradle....ep i c
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Saw him as well, as chipoleon59 said ALWAYS had time for fans. A lost art today. I'm just going to go flying in my taxi and remember!!! Thanks Harry!!
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chipoleon59
He died on my 21st birthday , worst 21st birthday ever . Saw him live several times , he always took time to shake hands , sign autographs & kiss the girls . He always promised to kiss the guys next time through. Another great gone to soon.
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Makes Ya think. Love you dad.
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My dad used to sing me cats in the cradle when I was little
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Remember my son listening to my album in his rm. as a young boy. lol where did the time go? Besides fast
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Cats in the cradle
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RIP HARRY
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l wish my dad would of spend more time with me when l was a kid l was around my mom alot during my child so l forgive him life's to short♤♡♢♧
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music is my life it is not my livlihood sing from your heart and sing from your soul this song and many has sustained me throughout so much in my life. truly a great artist, musician, and individual missed by many
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Tells a story in ever song
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I never get tired of hearing this.
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Harry Chapin must be remembered as one of America's greatest story tellers. More than ballads his songs are novellas. Packed with emotion, triumph and pain both personal and universal. I sing along with so many of his songs
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