Remember Harry

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!

24 Comments

  1. Bill Ayres, Co-Founder of WhyHunger
    July 13, 2016
    Reply

    I recently listened to a series of radio interviews that I did with Harry from 1975 to 1980. I was touched by how passionate and articulate he was and how the message we were sharing way back then was much the same as we represent today. We talked then about the need to change the system, to make justice the focus in the Hunger Movement.

    Harry was tireless, dynamic and unafraid to challenge authority. He used his position as a musician to raise millions and to reach millions. He never gave up even when Reagan was elected in 1980 and so much of the work we did on the Presidential Hunger Commission was cast aside. We had lost that battle but not the war against hunger. We made a commitment to spend the rest of our lives fighting hunger, poverty and injustice. He certainly kept his part of the bargain, joyfully, energetically and non- stop until the end of his too short life.

  2. Carl Lukens, Long-time WhyHunger Volunteer
    July 13, 2016
    Reply

    Take:
    A smile the size of Kansas
    A heart the size of Texas
    An unstoppable passion to give selflessly to improve any life he could
    And a conscience larger than the world
    Put them in a two-legged tornado…

    You didn’t say “No” to Harry…
    “There Only Was One Choice.”

  3. Sue Leventhal, WhyHunger Staff
    July 13, 2016
    Reply

    My friend Sheila and I went to see Harry and the band perform at Westbury Music Fair. We were on the line to hand in our tickets and find our seats. We were behind a fellow on a date with a young woman who didn’t know Harry – or his music. We overheard his description …”Well, he doesn’t really sing that well. He doesn’t really play guitar all that well either. But he’s AMAZING.” Harry was amazing. He was energy, passion, compassion …Funny, smart, engaged somehow with every single member of his audience.

  4. Jen Chapin, Harry's Daughter
    July 13, 2016
    Reply

    We gave him a hard time about being gone so much, but the fact is that Harry was an awesome dad. He loved to wrangle us all together for full family activities like bowling or ball games, but he also took the time to do individual projects with each of his five kids. For me it was the design and building of a beautiful dollhouse customized to my rag doll “Katie.”

    Though not known for his culinary talents, my dad also had an infamous brunch creation known as “barnyard goulash” – consisting of random leftovers from the fridge folded into a dozen scrambled eggs. “You’ll love it!” he’d say, when we whined about that dish or some activity we preferred to skip, “I heard you talking in your sleep about it last night, ‘I wanna go bowling!’”

  5. Tom Foster: Harry
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    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.

  6. Mike Smith
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    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.

  7. Ellen Klein
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    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.

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

    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, http://www.willreadandsingforfood.com

  9. bruce agee: what made america famous
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    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

  10. Jeff Alexander: Harry Chapin
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    Is it normal for a 73year old man cry for almost 2 hours? Well that’s what happened when I went to a Chapin Family Concert in Englewood, NJ this past June.
    Seeing Steve, Tom, Big John and Howie and daughter Jen brought back so many memories. Since then I have been playing Harry’s songs in my car continually.
    He was a gift to us followers at the right time. Taken away to soon, yes but the legacy continues.
    The crispness of his voice, his rapport with the band and audience. More important was the words and poetry that he put together along with Sandy. Cat’s in the Cradle, Tangled up puppet (my two children) Oh my Jenny, Corey’s Coming, A better place to be, Story of a life, Circle.
    I could go and on and on. So I will leave this note with this-“Remember When”.
    Best wishes to All, Jeff Alexander

  11. Larry Mathias: Remembering Harry
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks Jen for providing the forum to share our memories.

    In the mid-1970s, I spent time working at both my high school radio station and our school newspaper. During the summer of 1974, I met someone from another high school an hour from my home who also worked at his high school radio station, and he invited me to tour his school’s studios. While I was there, I heard my first Harry Chapin song, W*O*L*D. As an aspiring DJ at the time, the song struck a chord with me. On my way home, I went to a local record store and started listening to other Chapin songs, especially: “Sniper,” “Sunday Morning Sunshine,” “Better Place to Be,” and “Circle” from Sniper and Other Love Songs; “They Call Her Easy,” Mr. Tanner,” and “Mail Order Annie” from Short Stories; and “Taxi,” “Greyhound,” and “Dogtown” from Heads & Tails. I became instantly hooked on Harry’s music. No singer before Harry had lyrics that resonated with me the way his songs did.

    Fast-forward to the summer of 1975, and Harry was scheduled to perform with Janis Ian as part of the Summer of Stars at Washington Park race track in my hometown of Homewood, Ill. I called the local concert promoter for the event, and talked my way into an interview with Harry following the concert. As often happened, Harry’s concert ran longer than expected because of repeated encores. I came to the rail on the track at a make-shift security entrance as instructed. There, the promoter met me and told me that he would need to cancel the interview because Harry’s concert ran long. With Harry just three feet from me giving encouragement to a kid in a wheelchair, I swung behind the wheelchair and waited for him to finish. While the promoter tried to whisk him away after the meet-and-greet, I jumped over and told Harry that while I was disappointed that we would no longer have time for our pre-arranged interview, I just wanted to meet him. Harry turned to the promoter and said, “if you promised this young man he could interview me, he’s going to get to interview me!” He led me past security and we sat in a covered tent while I ask my questions. To be honest, I don’t remember the answers to what must have been inane questions; but I do remember the kindness of this man and his insistence that a promise not be broken. At that moment, I was forever in awe of the man for life. His fights for injustice were not solely at the macro level, working to solve the plight of world hunger; he also fought the ‘little fights,’ correcting wrongs on a personal level as well.

    I had the chance to meet Harry four other times during his life – once for another interview and three other times for autographs. I have supported his legacy by donating money to World Hunger Year or becoming involved in activities that generating contributions for WHY, such as company matching charity events and even a company bowling tournament whereby my team, the ‘Chapin Hunger Fighters,’ won the event and earned a donation to WHY.

    In my home office, I proudly displayed the replica Gold Medal and the Program from the 1987 event at Carnegie Hall. Thirty-five years later, not a day goes by without a Harry Chapin song coming from my iPhone. I always wondered how the world would be a better place if Harry had lived longer to carry on his philanthropic efforts.

  12. Debi Saul: Harry /Buffalo NY
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    I met Harry back in 1975 when he was playing in Buffalo NY. This was 1 of the many times I saw him. During the show he talked about world hunger and explained he was selling a book of poems he had written and if anyone wanted to stick around after the show, he would personnaly sign the book. So my husband bought me the book and we stood in line for his autograph. Now yo have to know I was approx 7 months pregnant at that time and ou know how people can be when you are standing in line…pushing , shoving. Harry looked up and saw me there and said to everyone..”ok everyone stop. Don’t you see we have a pregnant lady in our midst and you have to be careful” He then parted the way for me to come up to the table and signed my book and kissed my cheek. He made my day/life. Harry’s music has gotten me through some very rough times and has been with me at some of the happiest of my life. In this world right now we need more people like Harry….loving, giving and fighting for what is right. I am sure he had flaws like everyone does, but I will always remember him for his smile and willingness to fight for humanity.
    Harry was one of a kind and on July 16th..we lost a wonderful soul.

  13. Cassie
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    I never met Harry. I was born at least six years too late. But I grew up on his music. Every night, my dad would sing me Taxi–because of Cats in the Cradle. I wouldn’t have the father I do if it weren’t for that song. Thank you, Sandy and Harry, for that gift.

  14. Thom Wolke: Time to Remember - Harry Chapin & John Lennon
    July 15, 2016
    Reply

    Time to Remember
    By Thom Wolke 2009
    Early December is a funny time of year, a sort of no-man’s land between the year-end holidays. It’s been made gradually worse by commercialism to the point that holiday decorations now appear in stores in October.

    Still, December 7th holds a powerful place in a lot of people’s lives, especially the generation before me. It was yesterday’s 9/11 battle cry.

    But December 7th also holds a special place in my heart, and represents something finer during this ‘waiting’ period. For December 7th, 1942, precisely one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, was the day one of my favorite performers and lasting influences on my life, was born.

    Harry Chapin considered himself a “third-rate Folk Singer” but he was also an incredible humanitarian. This cannot be overemphasized. He almost single-handedly created the “Presidential Commission on Hunger” under Jimmy Carter, and he wouldn’t stop there, even after Carter agreed to its creation. Like a Pit-Bull unwilling to let go, Harry, sitting across the table, told Carter he wanted him, the President, committed to the cause.

    I was very fortunate to have a few encounters with Harry Chapin and his family. Hopefully I’ve take away some of the ideals of his life – ideals I try to uphold to this day.

    I first got to speak to Harry at a Pro-Celebrity tennis tournament in Forest Hills, NY. Later, I got his autograph on albums and on the tournament program book, and also got his son Josh’s (the “Cat’s In the Cradle” kid) very first autograph which I later sent to Harry’s widow.

    I went on to represent his brother, Tom Chapin, as his booking agent in the mid-80s, helping shepherd him into the world of Children’s Music. I was Tom’s photographer at the Carnegie Hall tribute to Harry, when he posthumously received the Congressional Gold Medal from Senator Leahy. To this day I’m involved in fundraising efforts for progressive causes such as this past Autumn’s concerts with Pete Seeger and Guy Davis in Lebanon and Brattleboro. Harry definitely touched me.

    Now every year, another early December date hits the headlines. December 8th, the day John Lennon was murdered in front of his wife, twenty-eight years ago.

    I have connections to this man, too.

    I walked by the Dakota apartment John shared with Yoko and their five year-old son Sean that afternoon, returning from the Museum of Natural History. I have no significant memory of that day other than noticing the small gathering of fans who always waited outside the entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of their ‘working class hero’, and I bought “Double Fantasy” when I returned home to NJ.

    Later that night, John Lennon was dead.

    Lennon was re-emerging from a self-imposed ‘exile’ with his new album before he was cut down by Mark David Chapman. He was trying to take back control of his life, and to do it on his own terms, when things were altered forever.

    Perhaps we each have our own ‘Chapmans’ in life, people or events that forever alter our direction. Not all of them are as final as Lennon’s, but that single senseless act has forever changed and altered the lives of everyone who came to know of John Winston Lennon, whether as family and friends, or fans gathered daily in front of the Dakota.

    Today, I’m the American manager for the “Quarrymen”, Lennon’s original band mates who eventually morphed into the greatest Rock & Roll band of all time.

    A couple of years ago, I was led around Liverpool by three of the band members who teased me with that famous Liverpool wit we’ve all come to know and love. Drummer Colin Hanton took particular zeal in poking fun of our ‘Uber-Tourist’ trip around town with quips like, “Rod (Davis), why are we driving all over, just tell him that field over there is ‘Strawberry Fields’, and let’s go get a pint,” or “Didn’t he see the film ? Just tell him John, Paul, and George all lived right next-door to one another.”

    When I brought the Quarrymen to America for the first time ever in 1998, we had the opportunity before their New York City show to wander uptown to the Dakota and across the street in Central Park to an area dedicated as “Strawberry Fields”. There’s a large plaque there embedded in the pathway, a simple disc that reads, “Imagine”. Pete Shotton, Lennon’s life-long best friend, wanted to visit privately with Yoko so we waited in the park, sitting on a bench near the plaque. It was a beautiful summer day, lots of folks strolling the paths. The Quarrymen and I talked about their boyhood memories and of Lennon’s legacy.

    I took note of a young woman lining up a perfect ‘postcard photo’ of the disc in the sidewalk. Delighting in the irony that there we were – Lennon’s best mates and I – on a bench obviously in the background of her photo, I approached her and told her of this coincidence. Amazingly, this 20 year-old knew who the Quarrymen were! She was a huge fan of Lennon. Even more incredible, this woman, with a thick German accent, told me that she flew here on her vacation specifically to take that photo of the plaque and absorb things in “Strawberry Fields” and around the Dakota.

    She took a couple more photos with the lads, and they invited her to the show that night at the Bottom Line. She never showed up, but I’ll bet her life had been changed in some way, forever.

    Both Harry Chapin and John Lennon, now bound by this coincidence of birth and death dates, shared the ideals of the goodness of mankind, and each in their own way struggled to find that in themselves and in the ways they tried to help others.

    My hope is that these ideals are what people can ponder in these times leading up to our annual year-end holidays with family and friends.

  15. Angela Albertus: Harry Chapin
    July 16, 2016
    Reply

    Harry Chapin was one of the best singer/songwriters of our time. His voice captured the pain of common experiences detailed in lyrics that paint a clear story of the event(s) he was singing about. When i was a young child, i walked around the house saying “Harry, Keep the Change.” I probably didn’t understand that lyric at the time and what it meant in the context of harry and sue but that phrase is still powerful to me today when i hear that song. Similarly, Cats in the Cradle (which i understand was written by his wife and not him) was another song I loved as a child and now as a working mom have more appreciation for it that words can say, especially due to the demands of my job. I was about 14 years old when he died. I had wanted to go to his concert at Eisenhower Park but my mom said no and said I could go to one another time. Ever since I have been old enough to go to concerts on my own, I never pass one up, because there might not be “another time.”
    (the word “that” in the Cats in the Cradle sentence should be “than” but am having troubling editing in this box)

  16. Chris Dougherty: Remembering Harry
    July 16, 2016
    Reply

    Where to begin? I fell in love with Harry’s music while in high school and saw him for the first time at Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pa in 1973. My mother was a huge fan of his and would always watch him on shows like Mike Douglas in the afternoon. His commitment to his causes was a real inspiration to all of us. I saw him in Central Park with his father Jim Chapin and the Jazz Tree. There was a fellow sitting in front of my friend and I who kept standing up and taking pictures and finally , at one point, Harry threatened (in his gentle humorous way) to come down from the stage and break his camera if he took another pictures. The last time I saw him was with his brother Tom in Elizabeth, NJ a few short months before his death. At that show I got his autograph for my mother. I was stunned and shaken when I heard of his death, the news coming when my sister, her boyfriend and I were heading to a concert featuring Southside Johnny. I played the live album to death and Taxi remains a definitional song for with one of the great opening lines,’ It was raining hard in ‘Frisco….” I saw Tom some time back and the tradition lives on and my wife and I saw Jen in Union, NJ and she carries the Chapin torch very well.

  17. Karen Perich: Remembering Harry
    July 17, 2016
    Reply

    I never met Harry or had the opportunity to go to any of his concerts sadly enough. Harry’s efforts in giving back to the world through his successes by helping to end hunger continues on through his memory and songs. A selfless individual trying to give back to many. An inspirational song that has had an impact on my life is “Cats in the Cradle” simply because it reminds oneself how precious life is and teaches you to get your priorities straight and never take for granted the time you were given to spend with your children and not putting the unimportant things first because you will miss out on those unforgettable moments that you can never get back ever again. So thank you, Harry, for your wisdom that you left us.

  18. Dave Robison: Remembering Harry
    July 17, 2016
    Reply

    I’m a blogger and Harry was a great inspiration for me and still is. I remembered him today with a special blog entry.
    Harry Chapin–Remembering When The Music
    Thanks so much for all you do.

  19. Joe Pisauro: Remembering Harry
    July 18, 2016
    Reply

    Taxi came out the year I was graduating from high school. I have been a fan ever since. His music just appeals to me and his vocation for preventing hunger added to my love for him and of his music. Whenever he was in the area I would go to see him. The last time I saw him was in Elizabeth, NJ, which might have been his last NJ concert. I still love his music as I have seen his brothers perform and most recently saw Steve who was joined with big John Wallace. His music will never die and will live on in his fans.

  20. Scott B
    July 29, 2016
    Reply

    I remember exactly where I was when the music stopped playing. I was at my summer camp, waiting tables that year. Someone walked by and said, “Hey, did you hear your buddy died.” I didn’t know what he meant, but went on to learn the news. For so many years before Harry’s death, I was a huge fan. I was a kid, but his music resonated with me. I learned to play the guitar, and had all the Chapin songbooks so I could play all of Harry’s music. I saw him countless times, performing at charity events, and even a few I had to pay for. I saw him play with Pete Seeger, Steve Goodman on Long Island, his brothers, and so many others. I saw him while in college too.
    And I have so many autographed posters that adorn my wall.
    Harry’s music is a constant source of inspiration. I smile when I hear his music, but I’m also sad – I often wonder how much more music we could have had, how many anthems we could have heard.
    At a camp talent show, I played Taxi. My voice wasn’t so good, but I wanted to introduce everyone to Harry’s music. During the part where John Wallace joins in the vocals, well I tried that one too.
    And now I play Harry’s music for my kids. Because for me, the music didn’t really stop playing.
    Thank you Chapin Family for your family concerts, and for continuing Harry’s legacy. I saw your show most recently at the Bergen PAC. It was wonderful.
    As it turns out, I am also a huge Kenny Loggins fan, so was thrilled to see Kenny receive your award last month.
    Scott B

  21. Dan Plunkett: concerts
    August 1, 2016
    Reply

    My wife and I saw Harry at Queen’s University in Kingston. In the last concert we attended Harry announced that this was the one going to the charity. I was teaching religion and English in a Catholic school and I told my students, they should see Harry so they could see a truly great story teller and I said they should always take any opportunity to see someone who is fully alive and knows what to do with it.
    This summer I produced a show in St. Catharines at my church. We raised $600 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. I did “All My Life’s a Circle” in memory of Harry.
    I have enjoyed hearing and meeting Harry’s daughter Jen.
    Thank you for showing us what good we can do.
    Let us all choose to love each other.

  22. Betty Camp: Memorable concert
    August 10, 2016
    Reply

    Harry was scheduled to perform with his group in West Palm Beach FL. He (alone) made a stop in our little town of Fort Pierce and performed in the middle of our Community Center, on a bar stool…acoustic no less! THE best concert I’ve ever attended. I frequently play his CD’s / songs, especially 30,000 Lbs of Bananas! Taken too soon; God bless your continued work.

  23. Helena Sherman: A fan since 9 years old
    August 29, 2016
    Reply

    My parents were huge fans of Harry’s music. My mother heard Cats in the Cradle on the radio and brought home that first album. They were lucky enough to see him acoustically at St Joseph’s U in the early 70’s. I was young but because the music was played in the house all the time I knew every word to every song. So for my 11th birthday my parents took me to see Harry at the Valley Forge Music Fair in December of 77. It was a few days before Harry’s birthday as well as mine. Even though it was a school night, I got to wait in line at the end of the show for Harry to sign a shirt. He asked me why I was up so late and I said I am here to see you because it’s my birthday. He replied that it was his too and he kissed my cheek. I also asked quite shyly if Corey was real. He said well, what do you think? I said she has to be real! Harry then replied if you believe it, she is real. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his kindness to an 11 yr old kid.
    His music has stayed with me my whole life. As an adult his songs are much more meaningful. His humanitarianism, his humor, and his urge to make things better for everyone lives in my heart.

  24. Tim Doke: Two Great Memories
    December 7, 2016
    Reply

    My friends and I were lucky to hear Harry and the band at one of their earliest concerts in a small venue in Kansas City where we all were sitting around on the floor. Taxi had been released, but Short Stories had not — so we got treated to all the material on both albums. We were amazed that the “new” material was just as fantastic as the songs on Taxi.
    Years later, Harry and the band came to our campus for a large venue performance, and we were on the second row. By now, there were three or four albums out, and he played for more than three hours. Afterwards, we went back to meet him, buy the poetry book and get it autographed. We mentioned that we were all headed to a party and handed him directions. Lo and behold, he showed up about two hours later and we hung out and partied with him — Harry loved to party! — and discovered what a wonderful person there was inside our favorite singer.
    He still lives in our hearts.

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