Sandy Chapin

by Carl Wiser

With her husband Harry, who died in a car accident in 1981, Sandy Chapin wrote "Cats In The Cradle," which reminds us to treasure our time with loved ones, something she does every day in her role as an on-call grandmother. Left with the formidable task of keeping Harry's legacy alive, she runs the Harry Chapin Foundation, which tries with remarkable success to continue Harry's good deeds.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): I'm hoping you can tell us about how Harry Chapin wrote.

Chapin: I think it's a romantic story because Harry died before MTV and any of the new technology. So it was like being an old fashioned troubadour, and he was constantly traveling, and on the road he would pick up those stories. So he'd bring stories to one town and pick up the new story. "Copper" for example was about Chicago. "Mr. Tanner" was a man named Martin Tubridy, and he really was from Ohio. So that's part of the story. He was, as you may have noticed, a big talker, and his songs were very verbose. I used to think it was absolutely remarkable that he could have a written line in a song, and make it scan when he put the music to it. But he always wrote the stories, the words, and then put music to them. Except for one occasion that I can recall when he wrote "Story Of A Life": he had the music for a long time, and he would play it over and over again. The story came to him while he was on a small plane flight someplace in the southwest. It was a very turbulent flight, really quite awful, and that's where he came up with the story to go with the music.

Songfacts: Was he one of these guys that always had a guitar or a notebook with him?

Sandy Chapin: Absolutely. He always had a notebook. The notebook, I think, came before the guitar. He was very intimidating to someone like me, because any writing I did was late at night after the kids were asleep. He could sit with a transistor radio listening to a hockey game, watch a basketball game on TV, and write a song. It was like breathing.

Songfacts: When he was writing about certain events or people, many times these people had no idea they were the subject of a song until the song came out, is that correct?

Chapin: Yeah, that's correct. Sometimes it was obvious, and a lot of times it would be less obvious, because sometimes there were people he didn't necessarily meet, but might have observed.

Songfacts: What are some of the less obvious ones?

Chapin: "Salt and Pepper" is about an old sailor. He got the idea from watching some people across a restaurant, and made up the story from the body language, what he thought that he was observing.

Songfacts: What about the song "W*O*L*D"?

Chapin: I think it's a composite person. It's a very real story in that when Harry was first starting he tended to be his own best promoter. He was very assertive about getting out and meeting people, and getting people to know his music. He had a manager early on, his name was Fred Kewley, and this is just before he started with Electra Records, he would call music companies and offices, and usually try to get to know the secretaries and the people that he would need to get him to the boss. So he would call up and he would say, "This is Fred Kewley, and I want to talk to you about this guy Harry Chapin," and he'd go on and on. And one time he called someone and that person said, "Hey, wait a minute, I know who this is." Someone recognized his voice. He was very energetic, very enthusiastic. He made a point of dropping in and meeting disc jockeys and program directors as he traveled around the country. As a matter of fact, when we moved to our home in Huntington, which was really helped by funds from Make A Wish [not the charity - see sidebar below], and also by the advance from when he signed with Electra Records, we had this big old house, and absolutely no furniture. To launch his second album he had a big party and invited a whole lot of program directors and disc jockeys and so forth. So he really got to know them and visited them. W*O*L*D was a composite.

Songfacts: How did he choose those specific call letters?.

Chapin: You know, I'm not sure. I guess in my head I had an idea that it was sort of related to "World" - kind of covering the range rather than picking one particular station.

Songfacts: That's really brilliant to write a song about disc jockeys, because the disc jockeys are going to...

Chapin: Play your song.

Songfacts: As a disc jockey myself, it's unbelievable how spot-on that song is, and how it relates to just about anybody who's been in front of the microphone.

Chapin: And there are people now who kind of fit the bill, I'm thinking of Cousin Brucie, but he was a young guy back then, so he wouldn't have fit so much the tired old guy in the song.

Songfacts: So many of the songs he wrote were about characters or news events, but then many of them were also very personal. For instance, the one he wrote about you, "I Want To Learn A Love Song." How much of that song is really true?

Chapin: Well, it's sort of metaphorical, because he says, "Concrete castle king." My first husband was a lawyer, so I think the concrete castle king was more related to the fact that when I met Harry and I was taking guitar lessons, I lived in a 4-story brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. So I think the concrete castle was the brownstone rather than that I was married to a contractor - it's kind of like whatever fit the poetry. And early on when we were dating, I took him to my parents' summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and I took him to a place there that everybody goes to visit, a historic site called Dogtown. It was where the original town stood on the top of the highest hill, and eventually everybody in the town moved down to the waterfront where the merchants related to the fishing industry lived. Well, Harry talks about a whaling town. And there was never any whaling in Gloucester. There was whaling in New Bedford, Massachusetts, there was whaling in Cold Spring Harbor and Long Island. I mean, there were definitely old whaling towns, but that happened not to be a whaling town. But it still today is a fishing town. So there would be those variations, because after all it was a song.

Songfacts: But he really did come over and give you guitar lessons?

Chapin: Yeah, he did. It was a fluke. I had three little kids, and I wanted to do old folk songs with them. I thought it was fun to do "Little Old Wagon Painted Blue," and "The Bucks Go Down In The Town-o." I was a teacher, and when I was studying, they told us that American folk songs were the only true American music, not derived from other places. So I had an interest in that. And I can't ever say I played very well, but I had taken piano lessons. That doesn't really work, because I wanted to sit on the floor, and do games and stuff. And I used to do that with little kids, like, we used to march to bed to "Marching To Pretoria." So I thought I'd like to learn to play guitar, and I tried a couple of avenues. There was one person I found who would give guitar lessons, but he was in the Upper West Side, and I was in Brooklyn Heights. And it would mean getting a babysitter and doing all that traveling for a one hour guitar lesson. I kind of dropped the idea, and then I got a call out of the blue because I think one of the people I had talked to had left a note with Harry's mom. Harry was out working in California after doing some work shooting commercials. He was out there for a year or more, and then he came back, was between jobs, and I guess his mother handed him the note. So by the time he called I had kind of forgotten, and didn't quite know what to make of the call. But I started the lessons, which were intermittent, because Harry was doing other things. We had some guitar lessons, and I wasn't very good, so I tried to be very diligent. And then after the guitar lesson, Harry would play some of the songs that he already had written, some of which were back when he was at Cornell. Some of the early ones like "Run Red River Run," and "Let Me Down Easy" - kind of folk songs.

The house is a brownstone, the first story is the kitchen, the second story is the so-called parlor, and then the top two floors are bedrooms. Downstairs there was a den, and my husband at the time always had poker night, and that was why I was doing those guitar lessons at the same time. Harry takes the song a little further... "So one night when the lights were dim," a little poetic license.

Songfacts: I'm getting the sense that parts of these songs are true, but he would do whatever works for the song. How about the song "Taxi"? Can you tell us what parts of that are true?

Chapin: 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 five or six months that he would not have to work for five or six months, and during which time he would write screenplays, and he was going to write everything. He was going to have the Emmy and the Tony and an Oscar and a Grammy and so forth. He was going to write the Great American Novel, he had a lot of plans for writing.

He had done three corporate training films. One I remember was for IBM. Three in a row, and he put aside the money, and was not working. He was doing a lot of writing. And one of the things that Harry would say was that he needed to be up against a deadline, because as the time was running out and the money was running out, that's when he would get very productive. 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 eight 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.

Make A Wish was a Sunday morning children's TV program that ran on ABC from 1971-1976. Says Sandy: "It was intended to compete with the other kids' cartoons, but it was supposed to be a little more intelligent. Somehow Harry was approached to write the words and music, and his brother Tom was the on-camera host for each Sunday morning episode. It was a half-hour long, it had two 15-minute segments. Each segment was a word. So the word might be "run." And there would be a song that Harry wrote using the word "run," or that I wrote and he re-wrote using the word "run." There would be a lot of word play, it would say, "run is a run in the stocking," and then "run is run down the street," and "run is a home run..." There'd be all this play on the word, and then the song sung by Tom Chapin. It was very fast and lots of pictures and words."
Songfacts: And was 16 Parkside Lane a real address?

Chapin: No, I think that was made up. But 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 four or six lines that he might come back to later and use. But there are other notebooks where he just sat down and wrote the song.

Songfacts: And do you know what gave him the idea to come up with the sequel to that song years later?

Chapin: I'm pretty sure I gave him the idea. I was thinking of a novel that I had read, too. This is all a very long time ago, you know. [laughing] I think it was by Graham Greene, an English writer. But anyway, it was like turnaround in a relationship. There was a relationship where one of the two people was much stronger and sort of the caretaker of the other, and then the tables were turned, and the woman became the stronger person, and so forth. So with that idea, I said, "Wouldn't it be interesting to see what happened to these people maybe 20 years later?" I just tossed out the idea. And as usual Harry was on the road and busy doing other things. And then at one point he said, "Why don't you try to write it?" And I didn't do anything with it. Then he sat down and wrote the sequel.

Songfacts: You were talking about how you need some silence, your own time when you write. Tell me about how you wrote "Cat's In The Cradle," at least the poem that started that.

Chapin: Actually, Harry and I kind of met because of writing. He would play some of his songs after a guitar lesson. But then he also would draw from a box of poems at the house, and I would toss a couple of mine to him and so forth. So we were both interested in writing. The first big job he got was writing for Make A Wish, and it also came at the time that he was starting his time with Electra. So he was on the road, leading a very hectic life. At that point he's doing a lot of small clubs where you get $100 a night and you have to pay the band, and it's all a promotional tour. So it was very hectic. He had to write 30 songs a year for Make A Wish, and he had to turn them in on a deadline. So he was on the road and I was at home and I would write songs for him which he would re-write. He had to teach me the structure of the song, because I wrote free verse poetry, so he would instruct me in how it worked: So many rhyming lines, and then a break and then a chorus and so forth. So he was teaching me songwriting. I wrote a lot of Make A Wish songs, and I started writing other songs as the ideas came to me.

"Cat's In The Cradle" was a combination of a couple of things. Whenever I was on a long drive I would listen to country music, because words would keep me awake more than just music. And I heard a song… I can remember the story, but I don't remember who sang it or what the title was, but an old couple were sitting at their breakfast table and looking out the window, and they saw the rusted swing and the sandbox, and they were reminiscing about the good old days when all the children were around and then the grandchildren, and how it passed, and now it's all gone. So that was part of the idea. The other part of the idea - this is always a problem, because Harry introduced the song at all his concerts and said, "This is a song my wife wrote to zap me because I wasn't home when our son Josh was born." I was always kind of amused by that because of the fact that we learn life's lessons too late, right? Would you agree with that?

Songfacts: I do. Yes.

Chapin: We don't learn lessons before the fact. We don't have a child born and then have all this wisdom. So I always thought it was interesting the way he told the story. But I learned the story because my husband was going to New York to be a lawyer, and I had a teaching job in New York. While we were apartment hunting, we were living with his parents in Brooklyn. His father was the borough president of Brooklyn at the time, which I think was a much more important job than it is today. But every day when he got home from work, he would start talking to his son about, "It'd be great if you'd go down to the club on Tuesday night, I'd like to introduce you to some of the people I know," and so forth. And he started trying to engineer a career for him which leads to politics. They did not have any relationship or communication because they had been so busy until his son went off to college and was gone. I don't remember exactly how, but he started talking to me. My father-in-law would say - and this is when we were all in the same room - and yet he would say to me, "Tell Jimmy I would like to see him down at the clubhouse on Tuesday." It was really very strange. So this is the way the evenings went. The conversation was going through me. So I realized what had happened. You know, relationships and characters and personalities and all those things are formed by two, so I realized that that hadn't happened. And it was very jerky at that stage. So I observed something that gave me the idea for the song.

Songfacts: Yeah, and that ended up being this really universal feeling.

Chapin: Right. Which I guess rang true with a lot of people because it was something that I actually saw in a relationship. As a matter of fact, my son Jason and his family, his wife and three children, live in Westchester, and the minister of their church gave a sermon just about 2 weeks ago using parables from the Bible. It was about procrastination and missed opportunities, and the subject of the sermon was "Cat's In The Cradle." So you know it's a real teaching opportunity that still comes up very, very often. It's used in sermons today, all these years later.

Songfacts: Well, it's just so incredibly valuable, because, just as you were saying, you don't learn your life's lessons until they've happened. This is an opportunity to learn that when you have your child.

Chapin: Right, yep.

Songfacts: One thing I thought was interesting is that you co-wrote this #1 hit, this big song. If I'm Harry Chapin, I'm saying, "Sandy, write more."

Chapin: Well, I did. I did write others. Harry and I would exchange writing of all kinds. We were always working on each other's writing. Some of my writing at a certain period were 20-page papers for a doctoral program at Columbia. So it wasn't always that poetic. But we both looked at each other's stuff. And then one time he came home and he said, "What have you been doing?" I showed him "Cat's In The Cradle," and he said, "Well, that's interesting." You know, sometimes he'd pick up something and put music to it. And that didn't really grab him at all. And then after Josh was born, it did. He picked it up and he wrote music to it. But, you know, first round it didn't strike a chord. So I did write a number of songs, and I don't know whether they all are attributed or not, because he re-wrote them to a large degree. I remember a song called "Jenny." Sometimes I'd be going through notebooks of mine, and then something would strike a chord and I'd say, "Hey, wait a minute, that whole page is one of Harry's songs.

Songfacts: "Tangled Up Puppet," how did you go about writing that one?

Chapin: Well, it was a real life story. Jamie, who is the eldest of my five children, was probably 12-13 years old. We never had any closed doors in the house, and then all of a sudden she'd be going in her room and closing the door. You know, just acting like a teenage girl. But she was writing in a diary, she was turning from a tomboy into a little pre-teen. I know when I was writing the story, I was writing about Jamie, but I was always thinking, Well, nobody's really interested in songs like this. People are interested in stories about, "I love you and you love me." And I thought, How can I write this song so it works both ways? But of course it really was about a girl turning into a woman.

Songfacts: What are your favorite Harry Chapin songs?

Chapin: I think "Story Of A Life" is especially beautiful and poignant. I tend to like the romantic ballads, like "She Sings Songs Without Words." I didn't like the harsh songs very well, like "Sniper." Even "Bananas," you know, that was a very hard song to listen to.

Songfacts: It's kind of morbid, huh?

Chapin: Yeah, you know, that song morphed. It had a life of its own. Originally it was a poem that Harry wrote, it was just words on a page. And early on he was doing different kinds of musical performances with his father, and also his brothers who were in college at the time. So there was a limited time for them to perform. But he did it as a spoken song. And then I guess after the Village Gate days, and the beginning of the contract with Electra, he was going through notebooks and looking for material. He decided to put music to it. And I think the song developed a life of its own from audience reaction. It was a serious poem to begin with on the society's preoccupation with numbers. You have your drivers license and your social security and your credit card, and on and on and on and on. You're just made up of numbers. But it also was a story - a true story that was told to him while he was on a Greyhound bus ride.

Songfacts: Yeah, I was wondering how he picked up that story, because it's kind of a random news event.

Chapin: Yeah, it's real. The widow still lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The original poem started from a preoccupation with numbers, and then it got to be a kind of performance piece that was kind of tragicomedy. Very difficult, I thought.

Songfacts: Yeah. And then "Sniper" is also based on a real story, right?

Chapin: Yeah, that was a newspaper story that he read.

Songfacts: So, these days you work with the Harry Chapin Foundation, correct?

Chapin: Yes.

Songfacts: Can you just tell me a bit about that?

Chapin: It was started after Harry died to try to keep alive the things that he was already involved in. One example was called the Performing Arts Foundation, a theater and an education program. It was a regional theater with an arts and education component in the schools in Huntington, and Harry was the chairman of the board and the chief fundraiser. He also founded the Long Island Philharmonic Professional Regional Symphony, and also a regional ballet called Eglevsky Ballet. He was building cultural institutions, building in some cases stronger existing cultural institutions, in some cases new institutions, like the Long Island Philharmonic. He had a dream of a kind of Lincoln Center in the center of Long Island. Long Island, because of the geography, it's difficult to bring in audiences. If you're too close to the city, people will go to the city, and if you're too far out you don't have enough population to support the institution. So, he spent a lifetime in energy working on that. He was also involved with Pete Seeger and the Clearwater Festival and saving the Hudson. So there are a number of these things that we were going to try to keep going. The Performing Arts Theater Program did fail. It went bankrupt. The Long Island Philharmonic still exists. The Eglevsky Ballet still exists.

Songfacts: Do you still write?

Chapin: Almost not at all. Maybe once or twice a year. And it used to be pretty constant. It's just that my life has gotten to be very disjointed and disorganized, because I'm on call for 6 grandchildren. I moved to be closer to grandchildren, but that means that I moved away from the music office and the Foundation and the gallery that I still have in Huntington. So therefore, I'm either on the road to grandchildren, or I'm on the road to Huntington, or I'm on the road to Long Island Cares meetings, and so I'm just constantly on the road.

Songfacts: Wow, that's very good of you to be an on-call grandmother. I hope they appreciate you.

Chapin: I think they really do. But you see, it's the same thing in "Cat's In The Cradle." I mean, the eldest of the 6 has just gone into 6th grade, which means not only does she live in a community where the kids grow up fast, but now she's in a middle school where everybody thinks they're teenagers and ought to be in high school. So you know, you have to grab those years. It used to be when I would drive up to the house, she would jump out and run and greet me, and say, "Grandma, what's the project for today?" Because I would always bring some arts and crafts. We'd make Thanksgiving place cards, or Christmas tree ornaments. But all through the year I was always doing projects with them. So now she's answering her e-mail, she's on her cell phone and doing dates, walking around town with her friends, being a grownup, and doing all the after school activities. You have to grab that chance when you have it.

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January 7, 2009

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Comments: 53

  • Patrick Earley from Chillicothe Missouri Heard Harry at Jesse Hall on University of Missouri campus fall of 78. Raised 5 children. Lost a son while he was a sophomore at Mizzou. The words and meanings of Cats in the Cradle have been so true, period. Did not know a grown man could shed so many tears over over a short time, 13 years. Cry everytime hear Cats in the Cradle, everytime see Jesse Hall after a football game, cry when see kids playing catch with a football. Point is THANK YOU...
  • Bill Bradley from Port St Lucie, FlI was fortunate enough to see Harry's twice in concert. Over the years my collection of Harry Chapin records transitioned into Harry Chapin CD's, which were converted to Ipod Music Files, which now live on my IPhone8. I often listen to Harry's stories when at my desk or driving in the car. They instantly take me to this magical place of wonder where his stories of people and events are real all over again. Today, I found Johhny Carson clips on YouTube and it listened to him, John Wallace, Stephen, Yvonne Cable all over again. At the end I shed a tear as his music and words still hold strong and effect me.

    No one knows why Harry had to leave us so early or why he had to leave us in such a horrific way. I suppose if he was still alive it would make it into one of his story songs.

    The fact that Sandy has kept his memory and good works alive all this time is nothing short of amazing. Harry did make a difference with his life in this world and will continue for many years to come.

    Thank you Harry!
  • Lucy Ann Edwards from Scranton PaThank you for this. It reminds me of what a good man he was, and what good people the entire family is. God bless you all. I have loved Harry and his music since 1974. I enjoyed Tom and "make a wish" before then.
  • Mary Moore from Kent, OhioMy boyfriend (husband now) introduced me to all of the Harry Chapin music. It’s the music we fell in love with and to and the music we still love and listen to today...over 30 years later! Our kids grew up on the beautiful ballads and folk music and they still listen and can sing along to just about any Harry Chapin song that’s played, too!
  • Melba Nickoles from Tuscaloosa, Alabama Thank you Sandy. It's 2019 now and I just read this. Thank you for sharing Harry with the world. I have loved him since I was a teenager. Yea,that was a long time ago. I'm about to turn 59. I always said,if I heard a choir that Harry was in,I could recognise his voice through all the other voices. It called to me. Thank you for loving him. I think everybody loves him in their own way. He loved you. That makes you very special.
  • Nicole from Westmont NjI loved Harry, I was just getting into his music. His performances were wonderful. I was dating at that time who later became my wife. We both liked him equally. I think we only saw him about two or three times and we were hooked, we agreed that we would never miss seeing him whenever he was near us. Then we heard the news we were broken hearted. To this day I still listed to his Live album. My best friend gave me his live album, I have to admit I was not thrilled with that gift. Listened to it a few times and started liking it. Soon after I recored it and listened to it while driving in my truck while driving around Philadelphia making deliveries. My uncle road with me as a helper. He ended up enjoying it as well. I am writing this because I heard on the radio today it was the anniversary of the tragic accident in Scranton, Pa.
  • Linden Frank from Fayetteville ArkansasI first saw Harry on the Tonight Show when he first debuted. I went out that next day and bought his LP/Heads and Tails and played it alot. Loved his energy. When I heard he died on the NJTurnpike, I was in shock for awhile. What a loss. I worked a production line and would sing everyday Taxi...
  • Jay from Ia.Just a small short story about Harry, I was about 16, He played at Monmouth college in Jersey. Tickets were $5. It was just him and his guitar. He saved Taxi til the middle of the show. At the end of every song the crowd would shout for Taxi. Me and my friends were just dumb high school kids so we started shouting Dump truck and Schoolbus. We were sitting on lower bleachers very close to him. He looked over, grinned and "I haven't wrote that one yet"
    Little did I know that later in life he would become my favorite artist and accompany me on hundreds of hours driving an 18 wheeler cross country. There's not a single song of his that I wouldn't stop what I'm doing and listen to but to me the one song that's personifies him is "the shortest story". Miss ya Harry.
  • Vic Gogan from Tucson Az My Heart New YorkSounds like a pretty outstanding fellow.Iam sure he is entertaing the Angels the Saints and yes even perhaps God.God bless him and his family.Untill they meet again in the great bye and bye.
  • Barbie from NjI think poetic justice happens. The family of the truck driver never got any loyalties but harry made fun of it all in his song. Well same thing happen to old harry. Ode to harry MOD
  • Debbie Haskins from New Orleans, Louisiana Is Home NowI first saw a Harry Chapin concert in Atlanta, Georgia. It was 1973, every time he was in Atlanta I was there and we always talked, he was so generous with his time. I didn't see him the last time he was in Atlanta, October 28 ,1980. I had delivered my first child that afternoon. My husband was working the show, he was a roadie, so after the concert Harry called the hospital to talk to me.... what an incredible man!

    He is missed and loved. Thank you Sandy for sharing him with us. Whenever I need a boost in my mood, it's Harrys music I listen to.
  • Gary Morley from England.Such an extrodinary talent, a Beautiful Human Being,an astonishing Musical legacy, Bless you Harris Chain.
  • Angelo Agosto from Bushkill, PaHarry's music and life taught me more than I can put into words. My hero, my mentor, my first educator. I miss Harry dearly and I listen to the music these days to think about how much we need Harry.
  • Cary Connelly from North Augusta, ScFrom a proud member of the "Baltimore Memorial S*** -Kicking Choir", and a 14-time denizen of the "Cheap Seats", a thought on "WOLD": Delete the 'W' and you're left with 'OLD'. "They said that they liked the younger sound when they let me go."
  • George Bono from Vineland, Nj, Born And Raised In Gloucester, Mass.My wife and I were living in Southern California when we were heading out to buy tickets to Harry,s upcoming concert in LA. just as I was about to turn off the stereo the news came across that Harry had died in a car crash on the LIFreeway. Needless to say the rest of the day was like I lost an old friend. Just found out from reading Sandy's interview that she took Harry to my hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts and I have been to Dogtown Common many times and grew up in a fishing family. RIP Harry, gone but will never ever be forgotten, look forward to seeing him up there of course after the's done telling the big guy one of his stories.
  • D Kelly from ChicagoMy older brother and sister had an extra ticket to see Harry at the Granada theatre in Chicago on Feb 16 1980. I was 14 yrs old and l knew a lot of his songs. When Harry signed my very large and very colorful playbill, he told me I was his youngest fan! In 1998ish my wife took my son and daughter to see tom chapin who was promoting Moon boat, his children album. " my kids and I still listen to it today. Anyway she took Harry's playbill with her and when tom signed it he said " WOW I haven't seen this in years"! Chapin family, keep up the great work. FF. DAVID KELLY.
  • Larry Schmaltz from Fat CityDid Harry ever perform at the New York Opra House? How about Martin Tubridy?
  • Michael from IrelandI feel very lucky to have seen Harry in The National Stadium in Dublin not long before he died. I remember he got all the people in the cheap seats to come up and sit in the aisles around the stage before the concert started. Halfway through the concert the band took a break but Harry stayed on stage to sign autographs and then met people after the show too. He is still remembered here in Ireland and his songs are played fairly regularly on Irish radio. He was not the best singer ever and his songs were sometimes over simplified but I think he had this great ability to connect with people through his stories and through his passion for what he was doing. He certainly had a positive impact on me and for that I am grateful.
  • Joe from Porter TxThese stories are fun to read. I listened to a Cassette of his live performance for years on my Walkman. He helped me get through some tough times away from home while in the military. The songs still resonate as they did 30 yes ago.
  • Steven Hager from Origionally Huntington, Li, Now VirginiaI consider myself a friend of Harry, I had been to his home a few times, and saw him around the town ooaisionally. I was working for Newsweek Magazine at the time as a photojournelist, when ever I could beg the editor to cover Harry's concerts,He usually let me, since I lived down the road from him a bit. He was a regular guy. Once I saw him and his family at a parade, in Huntington, I was a Coloniel re- enactment group then, and marching in the parade. I let his kids hold my musket, and they took pictures of me,instead of the opposite. He knew I covered the concerts he held at the local high school, and invited be to the house between concerts. I got to meet Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, and many many others, that I did not realize who they were till the concert. I didn't know Sandy, she kind of tried to shield Harry from the press people, so my visits were short. But he did visit me at my home to discuss photos for his alums, which I was more then happy to give my opinion. I am retired and now live in Southern Virginia, but when I visit my relatives in Huntington, LI, I make sure to stop and visit Harry's grave. He made the world a better place, he will never be forgotten.
    Music has been a great influence to my family, both my Nephews are in the music business. One Paul is a well known arranger and Sound engineer, Josh, also known as Garvy j, has had several CD's and is constantly on tour. They were exposed to Harry at a very early age, by their parents who loved HarRy's concerts.
  • Elizabeth from Lyman WashingtonMy favorite song of yours is Cats in the Cradle. You sing beautifully. Your daughter
  • Greg from Castlemaine, Victoria, AustraliaI knew about Harry before I saw him live at the Greek Theatre in LA (1978). I met him after the show when he signed his poetry book for me. I have used many of his songs as examples to my colleagues at College then students in later years at school. An inspiration to me that I have pleasure to pass on to others. Thanks Sandy and Thanks Harry!
  • Chip from Wantagh, Ny , UsaI remember waiting for my friend to go to Eisenhower Park, he came screeching up to my house, yelled "Come on were gonna be late!" We sped off, beers in hand, and nearly got in an accident at an intersection. We pulled over to take a breather after that, near collision, and heard the dreadful news about the accident on the LI Expressway. We both were changed forever, and remember exactly where we were when we heard the sad news that he'd died doing the same foolish thing as we were. Thank you Sandy,for carrying on his legacy!
  • Tena from Kansas CityThe comments I have just read echo most of my feelings as well. Sitting in the small hall concert in Kansas City litening to Harry Chapin only a few feet away telling his stories and singing. The audience interaction was amazing. He asked first timers to raise their hands, and welcomed the return attenders. It was more like sitting in his livingroom with a small group of friends. He was such a sincere and talented artist. Thank you to his widow for sharing her personal memories of such a great man, much like he did while he was alive in concert. Thank you again.
  • Former NeighborI grew up in Huntington Bay and recall going to the Chapins' home once with a friend who knew them. Absolutely an open front door policy, and what a good feeling it promoted.
  • Bill Marshall from East Hampton, CtTo this day, I can't think of Harry without tears welling up in my eyes. Saw him perform several times and had tickets to see him the week after he died. Just saw Jen perform recently. He was an enormous inspiration to me. I miss him deeply but greatly appreciate that he was here to touch the lives of so many of us who heard him and felt connected to him.
  • Bryan Mooney- AuthorI have seen Harry Chapin in concert at least six times. His opening act in the early days was Billy Joel who came out on stage with a long scarf wrapped around his neck. It was his thing.

    Harry Chapin was a great storyteller and touched my soul with his song writing. I was lost when I heard he died. I have everyone of his albums and still play them on a regular basis. He is a soul that is truly missed. I have used the spirit of Harry in a couple of my stories. Mail Order Annie, Shooting Star, Sandy, Mr. Tanner, A Better Place to Be are inspirational. He is truly missed. Bye Harry.
  • Mark Mitchell from MassachusettesI remember seeing Harry play in Hampton Beach NH back in 1981 appx. It was a magical setting with him on a stool only feet away playing for what seemed like me personally. He would tell a story and then sing a song and it was if I had hired him to play for me and my girl privately. I've never had a better experience at a concert.Sadly it was only a short time later he was killed. It really shocked me. Because of the experience I had with him it was almost like I had lost a personal friend.I'm now 57 (was 25) and I think of him often. He will be among the first I will look up when I get to Heaven!
  • Sandy from North CarolinaI followed Harry's concerts throughout New York and Connecticut. He was my only idol. I tried to get to his funeral, but the traffic and crowds were overwhelming. He told me after a concert in White Plains that he had written the song "Sandy" after me. I knew better, of course, but he certainly got to my heartstrings. I wish he was still here. Miss him very much.
  • Linda from Inland Empire, CaI was fortunate enough to see Harry Chapin in concert in Kalamazoo, Michigan not very long before he died. What an extraordinary songwriter and performer he was.
  • Shari from Mass.Thank you so much for this information on Harry. and the song.
  • John from Melbourne, AustraliaI used to sing "Circle" to my 2 year old daughter to calm her at night so that she could go to sleep. She is now 30 with her own 4 year old son.
    Even as I continue to listen to Harry's songs today, I am struck by how true they continue to be.
  • John from Denver CoFor years I have been a fan. Both playing and listening to Harry's music. When I was younger alot of his songs seemed to fit into my life. Mostly Cat's in the Cradle and I wannwa Learn a Love song. I was always trying to teach a girl how to play. I'm glad to see that Sandy still carries Harry vison and drive. Funny how he was always on the move and now she running hear and there. I guess our lives are like a circle I'll go around one more time. Harry is truely missed but the songs continue on at least for me.
  • Mark from Auckland New ZealandTaxi, Sequel. Mr Tanner, WOLD are all songs that bring the true ballad home to the heart and mean so much to me. My best wishes to Mr Chapin's family.
  • Ian from Brisbane AustraliaHarry wrote the songs I grew up to and the ones I cherish mosh today
    I have shared his songs with my children and friends and they fell in love
    with his music and stories too. Where would we be without Harry?
  • Karen from New JerseyI loved Harry Chapin and everything he stood for. His death was tragic on so many levels. The man had a large family and an even bigger heart. I remember that he always sold his t-shirts and such after each concert and came out to sign the items. He said the profits from those sales would go to World Hunger. Here was a man who had a large family to support and could have used every penny for that means, yet chose to live simply and put his "fortune" to use for a greater cause. I know that his death caused Congress to spend a moment of silence in his honor for those charitable contributions. A great humble man who told deeply profound and touching stories. I was happy to read this article as I always wondered how his family fared after his death and am happy to know they have prospered. Harry Chapin will always be fondly remembered and respected by me. I believe his music will continue to be heard and celebrated by all it touches.
  • David from Plattsmouth, NeI am a bit surprised at the comments. WOLD always hit me as the obvious place a bounced-around DJ would land when "the game" was for the younger DJs ("they liked the young sound"..."I am the morning DJ at WOLD"...he has become old, and now works at this mythical station with OLD in the call letters. Best concert I ever heard was in Kearney Nebraska in the mid-70s when Chapin's band refused to play "in this hick town", and he came out and did 2 1/2 hours solo and acoustic.
  • Jane from Las Vegas, NvI was listening to Bruce Springfield's tribute to Harry a couple of nights ago & that led me on the hunt to find {Cory's Coming} a song that still gives me goosebumps!! one of my favorite memoried is just Harry & his brother with only acoustic guitars in Schenectady, NY many years ago--I still mourn
  • Erin Rose from New Jersey I always love reading articles about Harry Chapin. I have been listening to his music since i was a little girl and I am only 18 now. I wish i could have been alive to meet him. I'm happy to know that people are still talking about his music, because it really speaks to me.
  • Tricia from WisconsinSo happy to have found this. To this day, I am touched by Harry's words and music. I went to many of his concerts, always sitting in the cheap seats. I was in college when he died and I felt the loss the grief belonged to me alone. Strange. But he touched me with his music and still does to this day. Wish I could have met him. Best wishes to his family.
  • Bob from BostonWhat a great storyteller. I never had the chance to see Harry but I got to see his brothers and the band at a hunger benefit (another great cause of Harry's). I can't listen to Cat's In The Craddle without thinking about my own dad, he was always there for me and I miss him so. Thanks Harry and Sandy
  • Lea from BelgiumI met Sandy in the 80's, when I was with a Belgian dance Group IMAGO TIJL from Neerpelt in the USA. We stayed with host-families, and I was so lucky to stay with Sandy. I remember her hospitality, that and what she told about Harry, her generosity, and the evening and nicht that we worked together on the banner for the 40th anniversary of Hirochima. Sandy, if you read this, do you remember me? Thank you for that wonderfull experience.
  • Peter John from Lenoir, NcWhat a great interview to stumble upon! To this day "Verities and Balderdash" is among my favorite albums of all time, but not because of its gits "Cats in the Cradle" and "I Want to Learn a Love Song?" My favorite was "What Made America Famous", as it shattered so much the stereotypes my conservatives taught me of hippies. Other songs that have had a long-range influence on my life include "Vacancy" which related sirectly to work in the hospitality industry with its lines "The sheets show their struggles/The glasses their fears/The ashtrays the hours passed/The towels their tears." That song informed how I related to all my guests. It also included, "Halfway to Heaven" which helped me understand my father, and which I find myself relating to ever more, not in details but concept, as I get older. One more comment: Harry Chapin put his fame where he professed his ideals. The county where I grew up in Vermont frequently benefitted from free concerts by Harry Chapin, often withut his band, all to raise oney for local charities.
  • Tom from Kirksville, Mo.As a 30 year veteran of radio, I always thought WOLD was a reference to getting old in radio, hence the call letters WOLD. I jocked until the age of 47, never made a lot of money, but loved going to work everyday. Plus, a song about radio will always get more airplay. It was great marketing.
  • Laura from Hamtramck, MiI always thought W-OLD was just an "oldies" station.
  • AnonymousI agree with the above: W-OLD. East Coast US radio stations start with W and west coast with K - so Harry could have called the song K*O*L*D, but W*O*L*D probably fit the rhyme scheme better.
  • Margaret from West Of IrelandI think Harry was the greatest singer/songwriter ever. I remember him being interviewed on local TV here in Ieland in the sixties...
  • Flipperman from Melbourne, Australia.Harry and Sandy also had a open front door policy on their Locust Ln home. A policy that showed the true human spirit of kindness EG: evryone is always welcome.

    W-O-L-D - W-OLD = Wounded OLD man.

    Thanks for the memories mate and keep the change.
  • Sandy from Not Today's Generation!Always wondered what happened to Harry Chapin's widow. We have the same first name. HC was a big musical part of my life in the 1970s. I'm happy to read what she has to say, but I wish she would concentrate more on her foundation and less on her grandchildren. The world needs good deeds.
  • MikeWhat an Amazing Interview, The Chapin Family is a gift from Heaven for all:)
  • SharonMy interpretation as well.
  • AugustI've always interpreted it that way myself.
  • AnonymousGreat interview. I'd like to point out that W-O-L-D is like W-OLD, OLD. Get it? A song about an aging DJ. OLD. Just my take. Yep.
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