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Singer, songwriter, and humanitarian Harry Chapin picture(s)/pic(s), wallpaper and photo gallery, albums covers pictures.
Birth name: Harry Forster Chapin.
Born: December 7, 1942 (1942-12-07) in New York City, New York, U.S.
Died: July 16, 1981 (aged 38), New York, U.S.
Harry Chapin biography (bio):
Harry Forster Chapin was an American singer, songwriter, and humanitarian. He originally intended to be a documentary film-maker, and directed Legendary Champions in 1968, which was nominated for a documentary Academy Award. In 1971, he decided to focus on music. With Big John Wallace, Tim Scott and Ron Palmer, Chapin started playing in various local nightclubs in New York City.
Early life and education:
Chapin was the second of four children born to Jim and Elspeth Chapin. His parents divorced by 1950, with Elspeth keeping custody of their four sons, as Jim spent much of his life on the road as a drummer for Big Band era acts such as Woody Herman. She married film magazine editor Henry Hart a few years later.
Chapin graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1960, and was among the five inductees in the school's Alumni Hall Of Fame for the year 2000. He briefly attended the United States Air Force Academy and was then an intermittent student at Cornell University. He did not complete a degree.
Music and career:
Following an unsuccessful early album made with his brothers, Tom and Steve, Chapin's debut album was Heads and Tales (1972, #60), which was a success thanks to the single "Taxi" (#24). However, Chapin's recording future became somewhat of a controversy between two powerful record companies headed by two very powerful men, Jac Holzman of Elektra Records and Clive Davis of Columbia.
According to Chapin's biography Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story by Peter M. Coan, Chapin had agreed in principle to sign with Elektra Records on the basis that he wanted a smaller record label that would give more personal attention to his work. However, Clive Davis remained undaunted, doubling almost every cash advance offer Chapin received from Holzman. Despite a cordial relationship with Holzman, Davis had a long history of besting Holzman over the years to particular artists, but this was one time that he did not prevail.
Chapin ultimately signed with Elektra for a smaller advance, but with provisions that made it worth the move. The biggest stipulation in the nine-album deal was that he receive free studio time, meaning he paid no recording costs. It was a move that would ultimately save Chapin hundreds of thousands of dollars over the term of his contract.
"This was completely unheard of," said Davis in the Coan book. "There was no such thing as free studio time."
Chapin's follow-up album, Sniper and Other Love Songs (1972, #160), was less successful despite containing the Chapin anthem "Circle" (a big European hit for The New Seekers). His third album, Short Stories (1974, #61), was a major success. Verities & Balderdash (1974, #4), released soon after, was even more successful, bolstered by the chart-topping hit single "Cat's in the Cradle", based upon a poem by his wife. Sandy Chapin had written the song inspired by her first husband's relationship with his father, and a country song she heard on the radio, though it is a common mistake that it was based on Harry's relations with his children. "Cat's in the Cradle" was Chapin's only number one hit, shooting album sales skyward and making him a millionaire.
He also wrote and performed a Broadway musical The Night That Made America Famous. Additionally, Chapin wrote the music and lyrics for Cotton Patch Gospel, a musical by Tom Key based on Clarence Jordan's book The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John. The original cast soundtrack was produced by Tom Chapin, and released in 1982 by Chapin Productions.
Chapin's only UK hit was "W*O*L*D", which reached #34 in 1974. His popularity in the UK owed much to the championing of BBC disc jockey Noel Edmonds. The song's success in the U.S. was mostly the result of disc jockeys playing it for themselves.
Chapin's recording of "The Shortest Story", a song he wrote about a dying child and featured in his 1976 live/studio album Greatest Stories Live, was named by author Tom Reynolds in his book I Hate Myself and Want to Die as the second most depressing song of all time (just behind "The Christmas Shoes").
By the end of the decade, Chapin's contract with Elektra (which had since merged with Asylum Records under the control of David Geffen) had run its course, and the company made no offer to renew it. A minor deal with Casablanca fell through, and Chapin settled on a simple one-album deal with Boardwalk Records. The Boardwalk album, though no one knew it at the time, would be his final work.
The title track of his last album, Sequel, was a follow up to his earlier song "Taxi" that reunited the same characters ten years later. The songs Chapin was working on at the time of his death were subsequently released as the thematic album The Last Protest Singer.
Charities and personal life:
Chapin was married to Sandy Chapin, a New York socialite eight years his senior. The story of their meeting and romance is told in his song "I Wanna Learn a Love Song". He fathered two children with her, Jennifer and Joshua, and was stepfather to her three children by a previous marriage.
In addition to supporting numerous charities and performing at fund raisers, Chapin returned to the United States Air Force Academy to play for the Cadet Wing. His performance was laced with humorous stories of his short stint there.
In the mid-1970s, Chapin focused on his social activism, including raising money to combat hunger in the United States. His daughter Jen said: "He saw hunger and poverty as an insult to America". He co-founded the organization World Hunger Year with legendary radio DJ Bill Ayres, before returning to music with On the Road to Kingdom Come. He also released a book of poetry, Looking...Seeing, in 1977. Many of Chapin's concerts were benefit performances (for example, a concert to help save the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York), and sales of his concert merchandise were used to support World Hunger Year.
Chapin's social causes at times caused friction among his band members and manager Fred Kewley. Chapin donated an estimated third of his paid concerts to charitable causes, often performing alone with his guitar to reduce costs.
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. The Harry Chapin Foundation was the result.
On Thursday, July 16, 1981, just after noon, Chapin was driving on the Long Island Expressway, in the left hand fast lane, at about 65 miles an hour. For some reason, either because of engine failure or some physical problem (thought to be a possible heart attack) he put on his emergency flashers near Exit 40 in Jericho, NY. He then slowed to about 15 miles an hour and veered into the center lane nearly colliding with another car. He swerved left, then to the right again, ending up directly in front of a tractor-trailer truck. The truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Harry's blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the gas tank and causing it to burst into flames.
The driver of the truck, and another passer-by were able to get Harry out of the burning car through the window and by cutting the seatbelts, before the car was completely engulfed in flames. He was taken by police helicopter to the hospital where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes to revive him. A spokesman for the Nassau County Medical Center said Chapin had suffered a heart attack and "died of cardiac arrest" but there was no way of knowing whether it occurred before or after the accident. In an interview years after his death, Chapin's daughter said "My dad didn't really sleep, and he ate badly and had a totally insane schedule."
Even though Harry's driver's license had been revoked at the time of the accident, for a long string of traffic violations, his wife Sandy did win a $12 million decision in a negligence lawsuit against the truck's owners.