Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Harry Chapin

Another week has gone by and it’s time now for another show and Harry Chapin is the feature.

Chapin2I came across Chapin in the mid 1970’s, liked his music, lost touch and then completely forgot about him.  He came to mind again about 6 months ago and I wondered what had become of him.  Very sadly I discovered that he had died in 1981 at the ridiculously young age of 38.  His music and his stories, for he is an extraordinary storyteller, live on.

Song for Myself

I should let you know that, although there are the normal 8 videos, this week’s show is 52 mins long.

From the Johnny Carson show in 1974.  Almost forgot. Coffee!  Take a minute and get one before you start.


Four lines in the first song were:

“Seems like my generation
Should have somethin’ more to say
Are we all gonna sit here with a stoned out smile
And simply watch the world go ‘way”

Harry was not one to “watch the world go ‘way”.  He founded an anti-hunger group – Long Island Cares, he organised concerts to raise money for Famine Relief in Africa. I recall reading that he said that he played one concert for himself and one for benefit.  

Wikipedia relates:

“One report quotes his widow saying soon after his death — "only with slight exaggeration" — that "Harry was supporting 17 relatives, 14 associations, seven foundations and 82 charities. Harry wasn't interested in saving money. He always said, 'Money is for people,' so he gave it away." Despite his success as a musician, he left little money and it was difficult to maintain the causes for which he raised more than $3 million in the last six years of his life.”

I’m sure he was no saint but here was a man whose heart was in the right place.

Flowers Are Red

This song I had remembered from my first discovery of Harry and it highlights the need to keep our kids’ minds open.  Harry gives a better introduction (1m 45s).

Over the years Mrs Carr and I have used the song title as short hand to highlight examples where minds are closed to any alternative.


Harry Chapin died in New York in 1981 of a heart attack but it is not known if this was the cause of his car crash or resulted from the crash.  Wikipedia quotes his daughter as saying, “My dad didn't really sleep, and he ate badly and had a totally insane schedule.”



This tells the story of a man who left his wife and kids following his dream job as a DJ.  After 8 years he returns to work in his old town and he gets back in touch with his “wife”.  Harry will do the rest.

Harry did the rest!


I thought carefully about the next song.  Should I include it? Eventually I thought it far too powerful to omit.


One commenter described the song and Harry’s performance thus.

“Sniper was an intense song, where Harry took on the persona of Charles Joseph Whitman, who killed 14 and wounded 32 as a sniper from the Univ. of Texas clock tower in 1966. It was an event that galvanized the country. The song goes 10 minutes, and Harry (as always) poured everything into it. It's a wonder they didn't have to carry him off after he performed it.”

An incredibly intense performance. I hope you felt this was worth including.


Corey’s Coming

We move on to a very different song and an old man’s dream and the boy who believed in him …..

….. and the boy dreamt too!

Why should we not dream?


Cat’s in the Cradle  (1 min talking intro)

Like father like son.  Not so good when Dad is too busy too see his son grow up.

I don’t need to write anything because Harry does it all for me.


Only two tracks to go in this extra long show and we move now to a song …. Stop.  You don’t need me.  Just listen to Harry.

Mr Tanner


All My Life’s a Circle (3m 45s sung intro)

Our last look at Harry Chapin is a brilliant end-of-concert performance.  Sing along if you want.

Wonderful! Amazing!


Well, that’s it for another week.  I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.

I leave you with Harry’s epitaph:

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


  1. Cats in the Cradle, of course, was his most famous, in retrospect but he did a lot.

    You say, Calum, that he was no saint but he seems pretty saintly to me. I'd forgotten him, to be sure so thank for running this today - your compilations are always so thoughtful.

  2. Thank you, James, for your kind words. Doing this series has opened my eyes. For so many years music was only a background accompaniment but now I listen to listen.

  3. Thanks Calum. You are opening little boxes in my head that haven't been opened for years.
    W.O.L.D. is the one I remember above all the others-
    "sometimes I get too crazy to dream and just take off in my car"
    what a great line that is...

    and "Life's A Circle"-
    you don't know things like that when you are young but when you get old it becomes obvious. As always we should listen to the minstrels and the poets instead of relying on politicians.

  4. A wonderful talent. "Flowers are Red" is one of my favourites (the list shuffles depending on my mood) showing how easily teachers and others can blight creativity in children.

  5. JD Thanks.

    That's a lovely phrase, " You are opening little boxes in my head that haven't been opened for years.

    The pleasure is mine. The listening I do to find the 8 tracks for each show is abs wonderful. I listen and listen and listen to countless tracks and to different versions/videos of the same track until "my" cream floats to the top.

    Sometimes on a Thursday I have a little panic when I don't know who's to feature.

    Dragonstar Yes, a wonderful talent! Many thanks.

  6. Didn't have a clue about him. A lot to discover. Thanks, Calum!