Remembering Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin was an incredible musician, a gifted storyteller and a committed activist for social justice who co-founded WhyHunger in 1975. Just a few years later, on July 16, 1981, Harry’s life was tragically cut short.

WhyHunger honors Harry every day by carrying forward his work to end hunger and build a just world. We invite you to use the simple form below to share your memories of Harry. We also invite you to help WhyHunger bring about Harry’s vision of a hunger-free world by joining Harry’s Giving Circle, a special group of monthly donors who know that together we can have a bigger impact!

Join the Giving Circle

  • Harry Chapin performs during Hungerthon in the 1970s.

    Photo credit: Diane Maple
  • Bill Ayres and Harry Chapin at WNEW FM for WhyHunger's annual Hungerthon broadcast.

    Photo credit: Diane Maple
  • Harry Chapin inspiring listeners and asking for donations during yet another Hungerthon.

    Photo credit: Diane Maple
bruce agee: what made america famous

My first real interaction with Harry was his broadway attempt, which I though was great, "What Made America Famous", I spoke with Jen Chapin and she said, "oh you were the one who saw it", again, I really enjoyed the play.  After, Harry came out, sat on a stool and sang for an hour, I left there feeling like I had known Harry forever.  He invited anyone who wanted to come to his home in Huntingdon that weekend for a barbecue, $25 for why, probably one of the first.  We went and I think went to a second one.  It was great, we played football on the lawn.  After that I probably saw Harry a dozen times, I was in my office in 1985 in Roslyn, near Eisenhower park, trying to get out of an appointment so I could see him that evening, but it wasn't to be.  I heard on the radio about the accident on the LIE and couldn't believe it.  I went home and cried.  Harry will always live in my heart

Friday, 15 July 2016
Scott Saalman: Harry's influence: Will Read and Sing For Food

Sometime in the late '70s, I learned how "giving" Harry was regarding his concert proceeds. The "one for me, one for the other guy" philosophy. Flash forward to 2011. That's when Harry's inspiration planted the seed for a bi-monthly benefit show that I created and host, called Will Read and Sing For Food. It's a crazy mix of humor writers and live musicians (some of them touring artists who just happened to be in our neck of the woods) volunteering their time and talents for local charities. And no, I am not a musician. To date, the show has raised $67,000 for 25 local causes and charities (with the community food bank having the biggest piece of the pie). Once our show had been going for a few months, the incredible Jen Chapin Trio joined us (at no cost) -- having Jen in our show brought this sucker full circle for me. It is still one of our most attended shows and highest money makers for the food bank. And it is still one of the best evenings of my life. Jen is a good friend of mine and a creative touchstone. After 88 shows, we are still plugging away, dollar by dollar, show by show, to help those in our community. Just goes to show the reach Harry has--even today, even for us non musicians (though music lovers). -- Scott Saalman, 

Friday, 15 July 2016
Ellen Klein

Harry was my musical idol. When I went to see him perform, as I did many many times, I felt both like I was the only person he was singing to, and also part of a family of fans. I even felt part of his extended family. And what better person to head our family - Harry cared about every person (you could always count on the cheap seats) both in his music and the world at large. His commitment to ending hunger was real and he got us all on that bus. His songs were beautiful and heartfelt stories that still resonate.

Oh, what more he might have accomplished. It's so good to know that his work and commitment live on.

Friday, 15 July 2016
Mike Smith

Harry was a musical and personal hero to me.  His songs were among the first I learned on the guitar.  I grew up in the sticks in Michigan, and so had to travel a few hours to get to Harry's concerts at Pine Knob in the summer and Flint in the winter.  The Flint concerts were fun because they usually were close to Harry's birthday (which is the day after mine).  

Like others, I've passed Harry's music on to my family.  My son learned to play cello; nothing like singing Cat's in the Cradel with your son to Harry's words resonate even more deeply.  Coincidentally, that song was on the radio as I drove away from the hospital after watching my son be born.  

Harry's commitment to hunger and political action also influenced me.  I worked with an anti hunger group as an organizer when I was younger.  I study activism as a communication scholar, and have been influenced by Kenneth Burke's (Harry's grandfather) work.  I helped start a hunger project on campus, and help to organize our bi-annual food drives.  

All because of Harry.  

Oh, to have Harry's hard-nosed but hopeful voice reminding us that we can make the world a better place to be.  

Friday, 15 July 2016
Tom Foster: Harry

I can't count the number of concerts I saw Harry perform. He always made it such a personal experience. When I had children we played Harry's music on all our vacation road trips and sing our hearts out. My kids now are passing Harry on to their kids. My oldest son sings Corey's Coming coming to his daughter Kori at bedtime. But Harry's biggest impact on our family was his selfless commitment to world hunger and his many concerts that supported the effort. I still have a faded World Hunger Year t-shirt! Thank you Harry and his musical family.

Friday, 15 July 2016