Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7: Harry Chapin was born on this date in 1942...

... he died after a car accident on The Long Island Expressway on July 16, 1981.

Born  in 1942, Harry Forster Chapin was an American singer-songwriter best known in particular for his folk rock songs including "Taxi," "W*O*L*D," and the number-one hit "Cat's in the Cradle."

Chapin, who was born in New York City was also a dedicated humanitarian who fought to end world hunger; his work was a key player in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977. In 1987, Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work.

Chapin's first formal introduction to music was while singing in the Brooklyn Boys Choir. It was here that Chapin met "Big" John Wallace, a tenor with a five-octave range, who would later become his bassist and backing vocalist. He began performing with his brothers while a teenager, with their father occasionally joining them on drums.
Chapin graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1960, and was among the five inductees in the school's Alumni Hall Of Fame for the year 2000. He briefly attended the United States Air Force Academy and was then an intermittent student at Cornell University, but did not complete a degree.

He originally intended to be a documentary film-maker, and directed Legendary Champions in 1968, which was nominated for a documentary Academy Award. In 1971, he decided to focus on music. With John Wallace, Tim Scott and Ron Palmer, Chapin started playing in various local nightclubs in New York City.

(Continued below video and Amazon portal ...)

HIGHLY Recommended (Press album covers for direct links to Amazon):
Greatest Stories Live EssentialsVerities & BalderdashShort StoriesHarry Chapin: Story Of A LifeHeads & Tales


Following an unsuccessful early album made with his brothers, Tom and Steve, Chapin's debut album was Heads & Tales in 1972, which was a success thanks to the single "Taxi." Chapin later gave great credit to WMEX-Boston radio personality Jim Connors for being the DJ who "discovered" this single, and pushing the air play of this song among fellow radio programmers in the U.S.
Chapin's follow-up album, Sniper and Other Love Songsin 1972, was less successful despite containing the Chapin anthem "Circle" - a big European hit for The New Seekers.

His third album, Short Stories released in 1973, was a modest success. Verities & Balderdash released soon after, was much more successful, bolstered by the chart-topping hit single "Cat's in the Cradle," based upon a poem by his wife. Sandra Chapin had written the poem inspired by her first husband's relationship with his father and a country song she heard on the radio.
When Harry's son Josh was born, he got the idea to put music to the words and recorded the result. "Cat's in the Cradle" was Chapin's only number one hit.

He also wrote and performed a Broadway musical The Night That Made America Famous. Additionally, Chapin wrote the music and lyrics for Cotton Patch Gospel, a musical by Atlantan Tom Key based on Clarence Jordan's book The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John.
On Thursday, July 16, 1981, just after noon, Chapin was driving in the left lane on the Long Island Expressway at about 65 mph on the way to perform at a free concert scheduled for later that evening at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York. Near exit 40 in Jericho he put on his emergency flashers, presumably because of either a mechanical or medical problem. A tractor-trailer truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Chapin's blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the fuel tank by climbing its back and causing it to burst into flames.

The driver of the truck and a passerby were able to get Chapin out of the burning car through the window and by cutting the seat belts before the car was completely engulfed in flames. He was taken by police helicopter to a hospital, where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes to revive him.

A spokesman for the Nassau County Medical Center said Chapin had suffered a heart attack and "died of cardiac arrest," but there was no way of knowing whether it occurred before or after the accident.

The Lakeside Theatre at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York, was renamed "Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre" during a memorial concert held one month after his death, as a tribute to his efforts to combat world hunger.

Other Long Island landmarks named in honor of Chapin include a graduate student apartment complex at Stony Brook University, and a playground at the intersection of Columbia Heights and Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights.


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