These words begin one of the greatest musical ballads ever written, a song called Taxi. I have always had a deep true love for the great story tellers in music. Jim Croce who I wrote about last week, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, and many others too numerous to mention. But for me, there was no one better than the Supreme Story Teller; Harry Chapin. During this week in 1981, the world would lose, and heaven would gain, this great person.
Harry was an enigma. He was only on the music scene for roughly ten years and during this time he was wildly successful. He was an activist, a philanthropist, a family man, and an advocate for nearly every cause that provided people, who were truly in need, any and all the help that could be provided. A very close friend to the homeless, the starving, the music aristocracy, and even congressional leaders and presidents, Harry would never stop promoting any cause or effort that would benefit his fellow man and those less fortunate than most.
For me, his music is so brilliant and heartfelt, and quite frankly relevant to nearly every person’s life today, as much as it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s when he wrote and performed his songs. Cat’s in the Cradle is certainly his most famous song and it brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it because I think of all the fathers who miss out on their children’s childhoods, much like the song describes so well. Other favorite songs of mine are “Remember When the Music,” “W.O.L.D.,” “I Wanna Learn a Love Song,” and “Sunday Morning Sunshine.” I challenge you to not smile when listening to or singing “Sunday Morning Sunshine,” that’s the powerful impact Harry had on those who heard his music.
My most favorite, is the incredible classic “Taxi,” from which the title of this message comes. “Taxi” is just an incredible song. It has a running time of 6 minutes 44 seconds which was too long at that time for radio stations to play, yet it became a huge hit. Harry would often joke his songs are beloved but he can’t get them on the radio because they are all too long.
“Taxi” tells the story of lost love, lost dreams, new challenges, new lives, future plans, and ultimately of pride and respect. I guess you could say it tells the story of life, for many many people. But along with the meaningful story-based lyrics, is that incredible acoustic guitar and instrumentals support, that makes this song a musical masterpiece.
Harry knew his music was a means to help him promote and support his many causes. Harry was a key driver in the race for an MS cure. As a son of a mom who had MS (Multiple Sclerosis) most of her life, I so appreciate his efforts. He drove world-wide campaigns against hunger and poverty. He knocked on doors and made constant phone calls until he got world leaders to listen and act. There was nothing Harry wouldn’t do to help the less fortunate.
Unfortunately, like so many in his era, Harry would be killed while still in his youth. Only 38 years old at the time of his death, Harry was mourned not only by his fans, but by the U.S. politicians he had badgered into acting on hunger legislation. It was reported that, "No other singer--not Bing Crosby, nor Elvis Presley, nor John Lennon--has ever been so widely honored by the nation's legislators. Nine senators and thirty congressmen paid tribute to Harry Chapin on the floor." The Harry Chapin Memorial Fund was founded by his family to help continue his charitable works.
I leave you with the words of Harry Chapin: “Oh, if a man tried to take his time on earth, and prove before he died, what one man's life could be worth, I wonder what would happen to this world.”
The following information is available on Harry Chapin. If you loved the man and his music, or just want to know more, I encourage you to check out the following:
A very moving and excellent reflection on Harry Chapin the musician, the humanitarian, the father, and one of the most active and caring people, was written last year by Steve North for THE WRAP. I strongly recommend this reflection of Harry Chapin, written on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death, July 16, 1981: https://www.thewrap.com/harry-chapin-rememberd-40-years-after-death-guest-column/
There is a web site that has been re-created by Harry Chapin's family to celebrate his 30-year legacy, what he wrote, what he sang, and what he accomplished.
The site states: We are sharing Harry’s "Story of a Life" through photos, music, stories, poems, and his commitment to "A Better Place to Be."
Harry's stories are resonating now through the generations. His music continues to touch people and make a difference in their lives.
We honor Harry’s “do something” spirit by featuring many of the non-profit organizations that he started like The Harry Chapin Foundation, Why Hunger, Long Island Cares, among others, and the important work they are doing.
We will continue to bring new stories, music, and products to the site.
— Sandy Chapin