Verities & Balderdash
Released: August 1974
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 33
Certified Gold: 12/17/74
The story song was Chapin's speciality, and this collection more than satisfies as it leaves a lush legacy of the singer-social activist taken away from us way too young after a 1981 auto accident. With the perennial "Cat's in the Cradle," this thoughtful, insightful, entertaining and amusing performer, who could make us cry and laugh in the course of a few tracks, etched his place in history -- it's the most timeless tearjerker ever. Every parent or child of the 1970s may still get a bit misty eyed when hearing the song, the classic story of a father who regrets having not spent enough time with his son. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
Harry Chapin's hit that hits close to home, "Cat's in the Cradle," came from within his own. "My wife, Sandy, had written a poem that implied I was on the roof a lot," Chapin said shortly after two performances in New York's Avery Fisher Hall. "Our son Joshua had just been born, and the Long Island Railroad near where we live is a pit for fathers who are not home much." The father who neglects his child in "Cat's in the Cradle" reaps what he sows when his grown-up son ignores him.
"Sandy's poem had four verses to it and the key words on the record were in the poem. 'We'll have a good time then' and 'I want to be like you' are her lines. There are four verses, just like on the record; the first about having a son, the second about giving him a football but not playing with him, the third about the son's going with girls and the last about his adulthood. I just changed things a bit and put in 'Cat's in the Cradle' nursery parts.
"The important thing for me as a songwriter is to bring a song full circle. In the case of 'Cat's in the Cradle,' it was just sitting there in her poem." Sandy Chapin wrote the verses for a book of poetry. "I have a book of lyrics coming out before her poetry book, but that's only because I'm Harry Chapin the popular singer. She's the poet."
Chapin, who is 32, turned to music in 1972 after he wrote and directed a documentary that was nominated for an Academy Award. "I'd been a folkie in college but hadn't made it, so I decided to try."
His first single was the marathon opus "Taxi," which crawled into the national Top Twenty despite its 6:44 length. "People have sometimes accused me of trying to write hit singles, but that was about as unusual a single as there could be. It was more a request item than a big seller and Jerry Peterson of KHJ in Los Angeles just told me that 'Taxi' gets more requests than any song except 'Stairway to Heaven."" Peterson paid Chapin a more unorthodox compliment by selecting his "What Made America Famous" as the only current single programmed on the 1974 KHJ Memorial Day Solid Gold Weekend's Firecracker 500.
"That was a thrill," Chapin said. "If I had a choice, I would have wished "What Made America Famous" had been my big hit." The song lives on as a pivotal number in The Night That Made America Famous, a Broadway production written by and starring Chapin, scheduled to open February 4th. "It's a multimedia meeting place of a musical and rock concert," he said. "There will be 50 songs, 16 of them new. We have the first six-figure media budget any Broadway project like this ever had." Guessing who might attend such a production, Chapin said, "I think I write for real people. My vision is evidently shared by many people. There is no humanity market in a sales sense, which is why some of my records make it and some don't. But I think this one is scaring fathers from coast to coast. I suspect wives are buying it as zingers for their husbands."
- Paul Gambaccini, Rolling Stone, 1/16/75.
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