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Short Stories - Harry Chapin Web Site
Harry Chapin
Biography


Harry Chapin Biography
b. 1942 d.1981

b. 7 December 1942, New York, USA, d. 16 July 1980. The son of a big band drummer, Chapin played in the Brooklyn Heights Boys’ Choir and during his teens formed a group with his brothers, Tom and Stephen. Immensely talented as a writer and film-maker, he directed the Oscar-nominated Legendary Champions in 1968, after which he returned to music. In 1971, he formed a group with John Wallace (bass), Ron Palmer (guitar) and Tim Scott (cello) and played in various clubs in New York. The following year, he was signed to Elektra Records and his debut HEADS AND TALES and the six-minute single "Taxi" enjoyed minor success in the US charts. Chapin's strength as a writer was already emerging in the form of fascinating narrative songs, which often had a twist in the tale. "W-O-L-D," an acute observation of the life of a local disc jockey, went on to become something of an FM radio classic. In 1974, Chapin secured the US Christmas number 1 single with the evocative "Cat's In The Cradle," a moral warning on the dangers of placing careerism above family life. In the song, the neglectful father realizes too late that he has no relationship with his son, who abandons him in his old age. Despite the quality of the recording, it made surprisingly little headway in the UK, failing even to reach the Top 40. With a series of albums, strongly narrative in tone, it was clear that Chapin was capable of extending himself and in 1975 he wrote the Broadway musical revue, The Night That Made America Famous. That same year, he also won an Emmy award for his musical work on the children's television series, 'Make A Wish'. By 1976, Chapin was still enjoying immense success in his homeland and his double live album GREATEST STORIES—LIVE received a gold record award. During the late '70s, he became increasingly involved in politics and was a delegate at the 1976 Democratic Convention. He also played many benefit concerts, raising millions of dollars in the process. In 1980, he switched labels to the small Boardwalk. The title track to his album SEQUEL, which was a story sequel to his first hit "Taxi," gave him his final US Top 30 entry. On 16 July, while travelling to a benefit concert, his car was hit by a truck in Jericho, New York and the singer was killed. A Harry Chapin Memorial Fund was subsequently launched in honour of his memory.

HARRY CHAPIN
The Story of A Life

1942:
December 7th - Born in New York City to Jean Elspeth Burke and James Forbes Chapin.

1953:
Chapin moves to Brooklyn Heights; joins Grace Church Choir.

1958:
Chapin Brothers ("a pre-pubescent Kingston Trio") is formed.

1959:
Chapin graduates from Brooklyn Technical High School.
(June) Enters U.S. Air Force Academy.
(September) Enters Cornell University; major: Architecture.

1961:
First film job at Drew Associates.

1963:
Re-enters Cornell; major: Philosophy.
Writes first song: Stars Tangled in Her Hair.

1965:
Full-time music with Chapin Brothers - their album Chapin Music! is released on Rock-Land Records.

1966:
Film job in Los Angeles making airline commercials.

1967:
Film job at Canton, Inc. in NY - writer and director.

1968:
Travels to Ethiopia with Jim Lipscomb to make a film for World Bank - Harry saw and filmed victims of Third World Poverty.
Marries Sandy Gaston with her three children Jaime, Jono, Jason.

1970:
Works on Al Lowenstein's Congressional Campaign.
Songwriting job for ABC-TV, working on new weekly half-hour children's show, Make A Wish.

1971:
Jennifer Elspeth Chapin, daughter, born (July).
Forms 4-piece band (featuring former Grace Church Choirboy, John Wallace), works as opening act for the Chapins at The Villa.
Signed recording contract with Elektra Records' Jac Holzman.

1972:
First album Head and Tales produced by Holzman released. Single, Taxi reached #18 on Billboard Singles chart.
Joshua Burke Chapin, son, born.
Grammy Nomination: Best New Artist of the Year.
Sniper and Other Love Songs 2nd album is released. Contains song Circle, which was a #1 hit record - by The New Seekers - in Europe.
Receives Billboard Magazine Trendsetter Award.

1973:
Short Stories released; single W.O.L.D hits Billboard Singles chart.

1974:
Make a Wish won Emmy and Peabody Awards.
Verities and Balderdash is released. KHJ, LA's biggest Top 40 Station, plays the song What Made America Famous? once an hour during July 4th Weekend

1975:
Verities and Balderdash charts at #1, awarded Gold Album Award.
Cat's in the Cradle #1 Single, awarded Gold record.
Receives a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Male Vocalist.
Poetry Book, Looking ... Seeing, is published and sold at concerts.
Broadway musical The Night that Made America Famous, starring and written by Harry, opens. The show only lasts a few weeks, but reveives two Tony nominations.
Harry begins teaching songwriter's workshop in Huntington.

1976:
Portrait Gallery released; single from the album, Dreams Go By, released.
Chapin founds World Hunger Year.
Greatest Stories Live released and eventually becomes Harry's 2nd Gold Album.
Single: A Better Place to Be released.
On The Road to Kingdom Come released.
Performs and writes songs for ABC Bicentennial Special The Conscience of America.

1977:
Danceband on the Titanic released; named "Album of the Year" by the Sunday Times critic, Derek Jewell. Chapin cabaret show opened in Los Angeles.
First issue of Food Monitor published.
Receives Rockies Public Service Award
James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver appear with Harry in Detroit concert benefitting hunger lobbying groups.

1978:
Receives Public Relations Society of America Lone Eagle Award.
Receives Brooklyn Technical High School Distinguished Alumni Award.
Living Room Suite released. Song Flowers are Red generates overwhelming mail response when sung on the Tonight Show Appointed by President Carter to Presidential Commission on World Hunger.
Rolling Stone publishes "Singing for the World's Supper" by Dave Marsh, detailing Harry's work with WHY and Presidential Commission.
Receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters: Adelphia University.
New York City Hunger Hotline established.

1979:
Legends of the Lost and Found (New Greatest Stories Live) released.
Mother and Daughter: The Loving War ABC-TV film inspired by Tangled Up Puppet featured Chapin songs, narration and cameo appearance.

1980:
Long Island Cares is founded.
Signed by Neil Bogart to Boardwalk Records; recorded Sequel - fastest breaking single and album of Harry's career.
Good Faith Food Donor Bill passed in NY State.
Performs 2,000th Concert at The Bottle Line, NYC - concert broadcast over WNEW-FM. CW Receives Post L.I. University - Honorary Doctor of Letters

1981:
July 16th- Died on Long Island.
Cotton Patch Gospel opens in Boston.
Harry and band recorded 16 songs for projected LP The Last Protest Singer.
The Last Stand Harry's last completed song, sung publicly for the first time by John Wallace at Grace Church. Completed version of Jubilation also performed here for the first time, by The Cotton Pickers.
Cotton Patch Gospel opens in Atlanta; becomes longest- running play in the city's history.

1982:
Kenny and Marianne Rogers establish World Hunger Media Awards.
Cotton Patch Gospel cast album is released.
CBS-Fox Video releases Harry Chapin: The Final Concert videocassette.

1983:
First Harry Chapin 5K Run.

1985:
USA for Africa produced by Ken Kragen and a result of Harry's inspiration, records We Are The World to benefit victims of famine in Ethiopia.
Lies and Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin opens at the Apollo Theatre in Chicago.
Lies and Legends opens at the Village Gate NYC.
Lies and Legends cast album released.

1986:
Anthology retrospective album released by Elektra Records.
Awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor #111.
Remember When the Music re-recorded by brother Tom.

1987:
Harry Chapin Park Dedication Brooklyn, NY.
Harry Chapin: A Legacy in Song, a collection of 23 of Harry Chapin's most beloved songs, released by Cherry Lane Music Co., Inc. 110 Midland Avenue, Port Chester, NY 10573.
Elektra release of Heads and Tales and Greatest Stories Live on CD;
New anthology released on CD: Harry Chapin Gold Medal Collection.
Sequel re-released on CD (with 2 previously unreleased songs), under the title Remember When The Music
Harry Chapin Tribute at Carnegie Hall - December 7 (Harry's Birthday).
Cotton Patch Gospel released on 16mm film and videocassette; nominated for Dove Award (Gospel Music's Grammy) for long-video cassette.
"Cotton Patch" opens in Philadelphia.

1988:
Last Protest Singer release on Dunhill Classics CD.

1990:
Harry Chapin Tribute CD (featuring perfomances from the Carnegie Hall Concert in 1987) released on Relativity Records.

1998
New Live CD - The Bottom Line Encore Collection, featuring a recording of Chapin's 2000th Concert, recorded at the Bottomline, New York City, in January 1981 is released.

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