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From: (David A. Paterson)
Subject: Rainy Nights in 'Frisco - The Harry Chapin FAQ
Date: 25 Nov 1996 17:46:58 GMT
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                          Rainy Nights in 'Frisco

                            The Harry Chapin FAQ

Gathered in from various sources by David A. Paterson (
Feel free to send your comments and suggestions.

This version revised November 24th, 1996
Manually HTML-ized.

The HTML version contains all the URLs and links.

What this FAQ includes:

Who was Harry Chapin?
Is there a Harry Chapin Web Page?
Is there a Harry Chapin Album List?
Is there a Harry Chapin biography?
What about Harry's music and poetry?
Are there any other musical Chapins?
Where is there more information about World Hunger Year?
Who else has recorded Harry's songs?

Who was Harry Chapin?

Harry Chapin was the second son of Jim Chapin, a jazz drummer. Born a year
to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harry grew up in New York with
his three brothers, James, Tom and Steve. Harry spent a year at the Air
Force Academy, then flunked out of Cornell twice, once in architecture and
once in philosophy. In the '60s, Harry, Tom and Steve made a group,
releasing an album that went nowhere. During that period Harry    
worked in the film industry, ultimately receiving an Academy Award
nomination for his short documentary Legendary Champions. The early '70s
saw Tom and Steve form a new group, with Harry left on the sidelines. So,
Harry put together a four man band to open for his brothers' act. Among the
group was Big John Wallace, a mainstay of Harry's group for the rest of his
life. Big John was Harry's bass player, no mean feat since, in John's own
words "I never played a bass to begin with...I wasn't a bass player."

Harry's band did well, and began to overshadow his brothers' group.
Ultimately, Harry and his band became the show. The music industry began to
notice Harry. Every time there was a rumor of an industry scout coming for
a show, Harry put out the call to the Chapin extended family, filling the
hall with a loud and appreciative audience, hoping to impress. In July of
1971 Harry got a glowing review in The New York Times. Better still, the
day's lead story carried over on to the same page as Harry's review.

Anne Purtill was one of the first music industry people to fall in love
with Harry and his music. She made a verbal agreement with Harry to sign
with Elektra, the leading folk label of the time. But a bidding war broke
out, Harry went back on the deal, and lost his first big supporter. Harry
did ultimately sign with Elektra, and every album liner included an attempt
to apologize to Annie P.

Harry's first album was Heads and Tales, and included the now classic lost
love song Taxi. This earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist.
Harry's next big hit was W*O*L*D, the story of a rock DJ getting old. Late
1974 saw Harry's breakthrough hit, Cat's In The Cradle. With lyrics by his
wife Sandy, this song told the story of a father and son never quite
getting together, but always promising "a good time then." Once again,
Harry was up for a Grammy, this time as best male vocal performance. Later
hits included a live version of A Better Place to Be, telling the "tale of
a midnight watchman, a rotund waitress, and a girl he picks up one night";
Flowers are Red, a commentary on schools stifling creativity; and Sequel,
where he returned to the characters of Taxi, ten years later. Harry also
wrote and starred in a Broadway show titled The Night that made America
Famous, which garnered several Tony nominations.

Harry's career was also marked with social activism. Performing over 100
benefit concerts every year, Harry supported the performing arts throughout
New York, raising money for ballet, theater and musical organizations. But
he was best known for his support of hunger causes, raising money and
awareness about issues in world and domestic hunger. He successfully
lobbied President Carter to form a Presidential Commission on World and
Domestic Hunger, and actively served as a member of the commission. His
hunger lobby group, World Hunger Year, rose from that effort. Even Rolling
Stone magazine, which routinely trashed his albums, wrote a glowing report
on Harry's efforts in their April 6, 1978 issue.

Harry died in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway on July 16,
1981, driving to a benefit concert. The Washington Post of July 17th had
perhaps the most touching obituary, written by Tony Kornheiser, a
sportswriter who had profiled Harry for The New York Times in 1976.
Senators and congressmen rose up and paid tribute to Harry on the floor.
Not only liberal Democrats, but even conservatives like Senator Robert Dole
praised Harry and his efforts. Ralph Nader, consumer activist, praised him
as a role model of the highest office in a democracy - that of citizen. And
Rolling Stone reported on a memorial concert held in Brooklyn Heights,
saying 'they sang and celebrated...during Harry's songs Circle, Remember
when the Music, and a new tune Jubilation... And they stung my eyes,
because I knew for once what they were created for, and I knew that they
were very good songs indeed.' Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont summed up
the feeling when he prefaced his eulogy by saying "You know, I think I've
shed more tears in the last few days than at any other time in my adult

Harry's dreams continued, though. Efforts like USA For Africa and Hands
Across America all had Harry in the background (though Harry likely would
have made a few comments about the event psychosis). And in 1986, Harry was
awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor. On December 7th, 1987,
Harry's 45th birthday, a tribute concert was held in Carnegie Hall,
celebrating Harry's life and music. Bruce Springsteen exhorted the audience
to follow Harry's activist example, saying "So, do something. And may his
song be sung."

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
- Harry Chapin, 1942-1981

Peter M. Coan, Taxi:The Harry Chapin Story.
Dave Marsh, Singing for the world's supper, Rolling Stone April 6 1978
Dave Marsh, Harry Chapin, Rolling Stone September 3 1981
Tony Kornheiser, Harry Chapin's Riches, Washington Post July 17 1981

Is there a Harry Chapin Web Page?

Point your browser to The Harry Chapin Fan Page Pictures, lyrics, .WAV
files, guitar chords and more.

And, his brother Tom Chapin is online as well.

Is there a Harry Chapin Album List ?

The following codes are used: LP - Vinyl record; T - Tape; CD - Compact
A star after a format means that the title is still available in that

Chapin Music 1966 - The Chapin Brothers LP
Heads and Tales 1972 LP,C*,CD*
Sniper and Other Love Songs 1972 LP,C
Short Stories 1973 LP,C
Verities and Balderdash 1974 LP,C*,CD*
Portrait Gallery 1975 LP,C*,CD*
Greatest Stories Live 1976 LP,C*,CD*
On the Road to Kingdom Come 1976 LP,C*,CD*
Danceband on the Titanic 1977 LP,C*,CD*
Living Room Suite 1978 LP,C*,CD*
Legends of the Lost and Found 1979 LP,C
Sequel 1980 LP,C
Anthology early '80s LP,C*
Gold Medal Collection 1988 CD*
Remember When the Music 1987 re-release of Sequel with 2 extra tracks C,CD
The Last Protest Singer 1988 LP,C,CD

Tribute 1989 CD

On Video:

The Book of Chapin. Rhino Records
You Are the Only Song (also released as The Final Concert)
$24.95 including S&H from Facets Entertainment Group, 3749 Cahuenga Blvd.
West, Studio City, CA 91604
Cotton Patch Gospel. Bridgestone Entertainment (includes Harry's music)

Is there a Harry Chapin biography?

Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story. by Peter M.Coan. (c) 1987. Ashley Books. ISBN
0-87949-280-7. This biography was approved and supported by Harry while he
was alive. After he died, the family withdrew its support.

What about Harry's music and poetry?

Looking, Seeing. by Harry Chapin. (c) 1975. Crowell Books. ISBN
For information on how to order a copy, check out his brother's web page.
Harry Chapin: Tribute. (c) 1989. Cherry Lane Music . ISBN 0-89524-418-7
Harry Chapin: A Legacy in Song. (c) 1987. Cherry Lane Music

Harry also wrote a musical, The Night That Made America Famous. He wrote
the songs for Cotton Patch Gospel, and a revue of his work called Lies and
Legends has been performed in various parts of North America.

Are there any other musical Chapins?

Just about all of them. His brothers Tom and Steve continue to perform. Tom
is a well-known family entertainer. Harry's daughter Jenny has begun a
career in the New York area.

However, Mary Chapin-Carpenter is not related.

Where is there more information about World Hunger Year?

Take a look at their web site. The chairman of the board of directors of
WHY is Harry's older brother, James.

Who else has recorded Harry's songs?

Tom Chapin recorded Circle, Jubilation, Remember When the Music, Cat's in
the Cradle and Flowers are Red.
Ugly Kid Joe recorded Cat's in the Cradle.
Mandy Patinkin recorded Taxi.

Information still needed:

ISBN of Harry Chapin: A Legacy in Song
List of which albums are still available in which formats
List of other artists who have recorded Harry's work
Other details you folks think are important

If you can help out with these, talk to me!

Please feel free to pass this around, unmodified. If there are any changes
or additions you'd like to see, let me know.

David A. Paterson
DICTIONARY: Opinion presented as truth in alphabetical order.
 - John Ralston Saul, The Doubter's Companion

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