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Album: Heads And TalesReleased: 1972Charted:
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."
Out of high School, Chapin entered the Air Force Academy to "Learn to Fly." He quit during his freshmen year.