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Harry Chapin

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Harry Chapin's career as a popular singer/songwriter was cut short by an auto accident in 1981, yet he left behind a series of recordings that his fans continue to treasure decades after his death. Chapin was never a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter. Critics accused him of over-sentimentalizing his subjects and attaching heavy-handed morals to his socially aware story-songs; the heavily orchestrated arrangements that accompanied many of his songs didn't help his case with the critics, either. Nevertheless, Chapin earned a devoted audience during the '70s, through his music and his charity work as a social activist. Chapin began performing while he was in high school, singing in the Brooklyn Heights Boys' Choir and forming a band with his brothers Tom and Stephen. During college, he decided to pursue a career as a documentary filmmaker; in 1968, he directed the Oscar-nominated Legendary Champions. In 1971, he switched his career, concentrating on music. Chapin recruited a backing band through an ad in the Village Voice; the respondents included bassist John Wallace, guitarist Ron Palmer, and cellist Tim Scott. The group began performing in various clubs around New York and the singer/songwriter was soon signed to Elektra Records. Heads and Tails, Chapin's first album, was released in the summer of 1972 and became a success thanks to the hit single "Taxi," which soon became the songwriter's signature tune. Later that year, he released his second album, Sniper and Other Love Songs, which didn't fare quite as well as his debut. Short Stories, Chapin's third album, appeared in the spring of 1973; it spent 23 weeks on the chart due to the success of the single "W.O.L.D.," a story about the life of a disc jockey. After recording his fourth album, Verities and Balderdash, Chapin disbanded his backing band and began work on his musical The Night That Made America Famous; both Wallace and cellist Michael Masters worked on the show, along with guitarist Doug Walker, drummer Howie Fields, and Chapin's brothers Tom, Steve, and Jim. While he was working on the musical, Verities and Balderdash became his biggest hit, peaking at number four on the U.S. charts and becoming a gold record. The album's success was benefited by the number-one single "Cat's in the Cradle," a song about an inconsiderate, career-oriented father that was based on a poem written by Chapin's wife. The Night That Made America Famous opened on February 26, 1975. It closed on April 6, after 75 performances; the show would earn two Tony nominations. Chapin won an Emmy award that spring for his contributions to ABC television's children's series Make a Wish, which was hosted by his brother Tom. That spring, the singer/songwriter co-founded World Hunger Year, a charity designed to raise money to fight international famine; the organization earned over $350,000 in its first year. In the fall of 1975, Chapin delivered Portrait Gallery, his follow-up to Verities and Balderdash. While the album performed respectably, peaking at number 53, it failed to recapture the mass audience of his previous album. Greatest Stories -- Live, a double album released in the spring of 1976, became the singer/songwriter's second gold album, peaking at number 48. Chapin was becoming more politically active throughout 1976, as evidenced by his role as a delegate at that summer's Democratic Convention. Late in 1976, he released On the Road to Kingdom Come, which spent a mere six weeks on the charts. The 1977 double-album Dance Band on the Titanic was on the charts for a few more weeks, yet it didn't spawn a hit single. The following year, Chapin met with President Jimmy Carter, discussing the need for a Presidential Commission on Hunger; he also released Living Room Suite that summer, which peaked at number 133. Chapin released a second live album, Legends of the Lost and Found -- New Greatest Stories Live, in the fall of 1979; it was his least-successful album, spending only three weeks on the charts. In 1980, he signed with Boardwalk Records, releasing Sequel that fall; the title track of the album was a sequel to his first hit single, "Taxi," and became his last Top 40 hit. On July 16, 1981, Chapin was driving to a business meeting on the Long Island Expressway near Jericho, NY, when his car was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. The accident caused his gas tank to explode, killing the singer/songwriter in the process. A memorial fund was established in his name following his death, with Elektra Records providing the initial donation of 10,000 dollars. Over the years, the fund has raised an estimated $5 million, which has gone to a variety of social causes that were close to Chapin's heart. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Albums by
Harry Chapin

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    19 songs

    On Air

    Cotton Patch Gospel

    16 songs

    On Air

    Legends of the Lost & Found

    14 songs

    On Air

    Dance Band on the Titanic

    10 songs

    On Air

    Portrait Gallery

    11 songs

    On Air

    Last Protest Singer

    10 songs

    On Air

    Sequel

    36 songs

    On Air

    The Bottom Line Archive Series: (Live 1981)

    7 songs

    On Air

    Songwriter

    9 songs

    On Air

    Sniper & Other Love Songs

    9 songs

    On Air

    Living Room Suite

    9 songs

    On Air

    On the Road to Kingdom Come

    9 songs

    On Air

    Verities & Balderdash

    9 songs

    On Air

    Heads & Tales

    79 songs

    On Air

    The Elektra Collection: 1971-1978

    16 songs

    On Air

    Classic Hits of Harry Chapin

    5 songs

    On Air

    Rhino Hi-Five: Harry Chapin [US Release]

    10 songs

    On Air

    Short Stories

    2 songs

    On Air

    Cat's in the Cradle/Vacancy

    32 songs

    On Air

    The Gold Medal Collection

    12 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Stories Live

    10 songs

    On Air

    Heads and Tales [Bonus Track]

    11 songs

    On Air

    Short Stories

    12 songs

    On Air

    Remember When the Music

    46 songs

    On Air

    Original Album Series

See All Albums

Top Songs by
Harry Chapin

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Cat's in the Cradle
  3.   Taxi
  4.   W*O*L*D*
  5.   Sequel
  6.   Could You Put Your Light On, Please
  7.   Song Man
  8.   30,000 Lbs. of Bananas
  9.   Circle
  10.   The Parade's Still Passing By
  11.   A Better Place To Be
  12.   Barefoot Lady
  13.   30,000 Pounds of Bananas
  14.   Let Time Go Lightly
  15.   Bluesman
  16.   Mr. Tanner
  17.   There Only Was One Circle
  18.   Last Stand
  19.   They Call Her Easy
  20.   Short Stories
  21.   Dancin' Boy
  22.   I Do It for You, Jane
  23.   Flowers Are Red
  24.   If My Mary Were Here
  25.   Why Do Little Girls
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Harry Chapin

    On Air

    Classic Singer Songwriters

    On Air

    Grand Theft Radio

    On Air

    '70s Hits

    On Air

    Oldies

    On Air

    Eclectic Rock

    On Air

    '70s Deep Dive


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