Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Chapin, 1942-1981

Harry Chapin's been gone 30 years today.

Even after all these years, that's a damned hard pill to swallow. I wish to associate myself with these remarks in the
Chicago Sun-Times:

To mark the anniversary, I listened to “Greatest Stories Live ” again. It holds up well. Though I skipped, as I always do, the final song, “The Shortest Story,” an excruciating dirge for a baby starving to death in Africa. The thing about Chapin is, some of his music is indeed hard to take; if you think the hits are downers, you should hear the more obscure stuff, like “Burning Herself.”

But that doesn’t make it bad. He was a man who deeply cared about matters most ignore. When he died in his little Volkswagen Rabbit, it could have been an irony lifted from his songs: Chapin was on his way to do another free show — half his concerts were for charity. No wonder hip folk despised him: He lived the life that they only paid lip service to, pinning on a ribbon and calling themselves bighearted while Chapin gave away half his income.

The music stands up. His music is less dated than some of Bruce Springsteen’s, because it was never current to begin with. Anyway, listening to his song “Circle,” watching the morning sun reflect off Metra cars in the train yard heading downtown Friday, I thought Chapin didn’t really die at 38. Harry Chapin lives on, as much as any artist can.

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