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Taxi

by

Harry Chapin



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was Chapin's first single. Harry had his taxi drivers license in New York City and worked as a driver for 6 months in Long Beach, New York. Sandy Chapin, who was married to Harry from 1968 until his death in 1981, told us the story: "He had been working in film, that was how he made his living. Harry's plan at the time was to make enough money in 5 or 6 months that he would not have to work for 5 or 6 months, and during which time he would write screenplays. And then, the money did run out and he went back to look for some work in film, but there wasn't anything available. He needed a job, he wanted to still to be able to write, so he applied for a cab license. And I was something like 8 months pregnant. I felt very positive about it, because I thought, wow, it would be a great experience, because people in cabs will tell him stories, and he'll get all kinds of characters for songs. I think he was feeling pretty low about it, and wrote the song 'Taxi' with the idea that the people he had told his dreams - that he was gonna make a great film - were gonna get into the cab, and so he ended up being a cab driver after all the big talk. And one of whom would be the girlfriend that he had while he was at Cornell. Sue was a real person."
The song is set in San Francisco. Sandy Chapin explains: "The song was moved to the West Coast from the East Coast. His life, college and otherwise, his work, was all on the East Coast. Even his film work was on the East Coast, except for that one year in California when he was doing commercials.
When I would look through Harry's notebooks, I was amazed at how little editing there was. He would start jotting down ideas for a song or a story, and then decide later that because of the rhyming or the rhythm or whatever it was, that San Francisco would be a good place. He probably just came up with the line, 'It was raining hard in Frisco,' and went on from there. There were some notebooks where he jotted down 4 or 6 lines that he might come back to later and use. But there are other notebooks where he just sat down and wrote the song." (Read more about Harry in our interview with Sandy Chapin.)
This song is about a cab driver who picks up a passenger who turns out to be his former lover. They broke up so she could be an actress and he could learn to fly. At the end, he realizes they both got their wish, as she acts like she is happy and he flies in his taxi by getting stoned. Eight years later, Chapin followed this up with another hit, appropriately titled "Sequel," which continued the chronicles of the former lovers Harry and Sue.
Chapin utilized harmonic techniques on the guitar to simulate the sound of rain at the song's beginning and end, thus musically reflecting the lyric "It was raining hard in 'Frisco." (thanks, Bruce - West Columbia, SC, for above 2)
Out of high School, Chapin entered the Air Force Academy to "Learn to Fly." He quit during his freshmen year. (thanks, Fred - Saugus, CA)
Harry Chapin
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Comments (11):

Funny how you can connect to some songs...my first true girlfriend was names Suzanne, and I called her Sue. We dated for a while through high school in New Orleans. We really liked each other, but had too many differences to make the relationship really bloom. I had always planned to be an Air Force pilot like my Dad, and while I had a nomination to the AFA, I couldn't qualify academically, so I went to LSU and earned a pilot training slot through AFROTC. Suzanne had an amazing voice, and I expected her to make it in show business some way, but she could never really break through. I washed out of pilot training and became a missile launch officer. No matter how many times I hear this song, the parallels always amaze me.
- Scotty, Cheyenne, WY
HISTORY OF WOLD AM & FM: WOLD - AM 1330 Khz went on the air with 1000 watts daytime only on April 25, 1962 started By Seward Broadcasting Co. The AM station increased output power to 5000 watts day and 500 watts pre-sunrise in 1981. Specialty programing includes country and religious formats. It was acquired by present owner Emerald Sound,Inc in September 1965. WOLD - FM signed on March 14 1968 and now operates on 102.5 Mhz with 6000 watts. Format 24 hours a day is adult contemporary, and oldies {Info source: http://www.netva.com/wold/HISTORY.HTM}
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Saw Harry many times in concert. As a grad of the Air Force Academy, he had special meanings to a couple of his songs. He performed there several times. At one of his concerts he related to the audience that as he was out processing from the Academy that he had to talk to the chaplain. The chaplain, in an effort to have Harry reconsider said that if he wasn't a success at the Academy that he wouldn't be a success at anything. Harry said, "I gave away $4 million to charity last year and still had to pay taxes on the other $7 million I kept. Mow, I'm not sure what a major in the Air Force makes but I don't believe it is quite that high yet." He also commented about what a good decision it was to leave the Academy since he was in the class of '64 - they lost a lot of pilots in Vietnam.

Another song about his life at "the Zoo" (AF Academy) is "Changes" on the Short Stories album.
- Doug, Dixfield, ME
Being a native San Franciscan (I was 12 in the summer of 1967, Haight-Ashbury and all that), I knew the song wasn't originally about San Francisco. First we don't have Brownstones, and we don't call it "Frisco". Having said that, I love this song because it is a great and evocative song. You KNOW in the first couple bars what song it is, it was like no other songs at the time. I think of Harry Chapin and Don McLean as two of the greatest songwriters of our time, but I think of Harry Chapin as more of a Song PAINTER for his ability to create
an image in your mind with his work. RIP Harry
- Keith, San Francisco, CA
Harry changed the city and the name to sue, the song was about a woman named "cille" lucille. I remember when this really happened because my mother was on the way to see my sister and i but she got lost on the cab ride. I never did see her for awhile after that. The 5 story brownstory was on main street in a small italian town outside of n.y. Harry was my Mom's only love before she had married my dad and that didn't work out. didn't know alot about her but she loved harry very much and I never met him but always admired him for who he was and what he stood for. Rest in peace Harry.
- M, df, NY
Although I like some of his other songs, Taxi and Sequel will always be my favorites.
- Terri, Baltimore, MD
I saw Harry perform this song at a Concert at West Point. He related that he had at one time gone to the Air Force Academy (dropped out after one year), which explains the lyrics "I was going to learn to fly"
- James, Houston, TX
Saw Harry Chapin many times. His songs 'Sniper' & Bummer' were truly killer. He almost completely stopped doing them about a year before he died because his voice couldn't handle the songs anymore. mitch, I was engaged to a girl in Long Beach, LI in '70-'71
- Lester, New York City, NY
This was Chapin's first single. Harry had his taxi drivers license in New York City and worked as a driver for 6 months in Long Beach, New York. When he wrote this song, he changed the setting to San Francisco to make it more interesting.
- alex, new york, NY
Harry Chapin was a cab driver in Long Beach, NY but when he wrote Taxi, he changed it to San Fransico to make it more interesting.
- mitch, new york, NY
San Franciscans disdain having their city called "Frisco". Wonder if Chapin knew this when he wrote the song?
Chapin died in a car crash in 1981 shortly after his last single "Sequel" was released.
- Charles, Charlotte, NC
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