Archive for the 'Harry Chapin' Category

Favorite Lyric Friday

After writing a post in memory of Mama Cass, it occurred to me that I forgot another major music death that happened in July. On July 16, 1981, Harry Chapin died in a car crash in Long Island.

Harry was a singer and social activist similar to Pete Seeger. His big cause was world hunger and in 1975 together with radio DJ Bill Ayres he founded World Hunger Year. Beyond his own activism, Harry worked within the music community to get other performers socially active. It was Harry’s work that enabled things like We Are the World and Live Aid to happen.

The world had a major loss with Harry’s death.

There are many lyrics of Harry’s that are amazing, and I am putting two here. First is from the song Mercenaries which is a song about men going to war and what they do when they get leave. The meaning of the song is clear in the last verse.

And you’re back in your army
Back shedding red blood
And you dream of the girl
As you sleep in the mud
And you know you’d swap with her
If the deal could be made
‘Cause you’d rather be working
At love as your trade

And finally on Harry’s tombstone it reads from the song I Wonder What Would Happen to this World:

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

Here is a link to Mercenaries. You need to click a few buttons to get the song, but it is worth it.

And here are two youtubes for I Wonder What Would Happen to this World. The first audio of Harry and his band and the second is a jazzy version by his daughter Jen.



Favorite Lyric Friday

Its time once again for favorite lyric Friday! Today I have another song that is high up on my list of lyrics. Harry Chapin is probably my favorite song writer. I have spoken about Harry here before. He was a masterful story teller and was one of the first people in the music business to get involved with social activism beyond the folk music community.

Harry was passionate about solving hunger in the world and created “World Hunger Year” to promote education in America on this problem. He routinely did about half of his concerts for charities that he believed in. It was Harry’s dedication that paved the way for “We are the World”, “Hands Across America”, and “Live Aid”.

My song pick is called I Wonder What Would Happen To This World, and unfortunately there are no youtubes for this song. I placed it on my own website, but I cannot stream, so you will have to download to listen.


I Wonder What Would Happen To This World

Song of the day

Yesterday I suggested that I wanted to talk about male singing voices. It seems to me that in much of popular/rock music there are just not that many “great” male voices. There are some great singers, some great musicians, etc, but when you get down to basics, they just don’t have the best voices.

Good examples are some of my favorite artists. Billy Joel, to me a music god, but not a great voice. Harry Chapin is another of my gods with perhaps one of the worst singing voices of recording artists (I know he is dead and I should not speak ill of the dead, but it is the truth, and if he were alive I don’t think he would disagree!). Even the holiest of holy, The Beatles did not have the greatest of voices (although they are not at all near the bottom of the list).

I have long given thought to what male artists have great voices. I have discussed two here so far. One is Art Garfunkel. Listen to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and you will not only be blown away by the amazing song, but by his powerful and clear voice. He has a remarkable range and can sing almost anything. The other singer I mentioned is Dennis De Young of Styx. A very different style than Garfunkel, but nonetheless a wonderful voice.

For my song of the day, I am going to add another name to my great male voices list. And please, no snickering! John Denver. I have always liked John Denver, probably because my mom listened to him so much. He had a remarkable way with words, and his voice can only be described as sweet sounding. He skillfully combined country/western music with pop music and he crossed over to the pop charts more than almost any other country singer (in fact, I don’t really consider him a country singer).

He had many great songs, but I think that my favorite is one called “Looking For Space.” Rather than speak about it, here is a link to the lyrics.  I would love comments with other candidates of best male voice!

This video contains two songs, and “Looking For Space” is at the 3:30 mark.

Song of the day

The day the music died.

No, today’s song is not American Pie by Don McLean (although maybe it will be someday). In that song, the day the music died was the day Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. To me the day the music died will always be July 16, 1981. It was on this date that Harry Chapin died in a tragic car accident on the Long Island Expressway. I dialed up Harry on my ipod this morning during my commute and as always, I found myself want to listen to his stories over and over again. You see Harry did not so much write songs as he did stories. Lets face it, he was not your typical music star. He was not really good looking, he did not sing that well. He was a decent guitar player, but nothing special. It was his song writing that made him special. Listen to any Chapin song and you will be captivated by the story he is telling.

I can pick almost any song (and over time, I am sure many will appear here) but today I choose “Remember When the Music.” This beautiful song was written by Harry the day after Al Lowenstein died. Al Lowenstein was a political activist who worked for many liberal democrat causes in the 60s. At one point Harry had worked for him and they had become friends. The song reminds us of a time when life was simpler and when people dreamed of a better tomorrow.

I looked for a youtube or some other site that had Harry singing this song. Unfortunately, I cannot find Harry singing it. However, in 1986, Harry Chapin posthumously became the 101st recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the US can bestow upon its citizens. The following year a concert was organized in his memory and to honor this occasion. Different artists sang Harry’s songs at Carnegie Hall. Here is Bruce Springsteen singing “Remember When the Music.”

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