I am nearly in tears as I have read these stories and have had the opportunity to remember my own “Harry Experience”. All of you who were fortunate to have Harry Chapin perform for you from a stage were blessed.
Those of us who had our evening with Harry on a dark and stormy, blizzard filled November night in 1979, were blessed beyond measure! Harry was doing what he loved, what he was driven to do, raise money for the World Hunger Year.
As you may imagine, Mr. Murphy was just ahead of Harry all the way. The concert took place at Ketchikan High School, in Ketchikan, Alaska. For many weeks, my friends and I were eagerly awaiting Harry’s arrival and performance. We were a group of Coast Guard persons stationed at either Base Ketchikan, or on the buoy tender USCGC LAUREL.
The night arrived; snow had been steadily falling all day. It seemed likely Harry’s plane would not land due to the severity of the storm and we would likely not have the opportunity to have him soothe our various needs with his songs. You can imagine we all arrived for the concert hoping beyond hope that Harry would truly arrive.
True to form, he arrived (a little late and looking haggard from a too full schedule). His guitar needed to be tuned, (he was performing solo) and Mr. Murphy decided the time was just right to let everyone know what he was about. A string broke on Harry’s guitar (not so unusual you might think), then the local power for the city was knocked out by the storm! Well pack ’em up and head on home right?? Not on your life! Harry wouldn’t have it that way. All the folks with flashlights got them out; the chairs we were sitting on were moved away and stacked.
Harry brought his stool and guitar down from the stage; we all snuggled in close and were serenaded for about 2 hours. Harry sang and played in lights provided by candle and flashlight. Finally (but maybe unfortunately) he lights were restored, we had a short intermission, Harry moved back to the stage and easily gave us 2 more hours of music, stories, laughter and sorrow all rolled into one highly emotion charged performance.
Harry, you gave more to that small community than you would ever know. This young sailor had a piece of home in your songs. I cannot say I miss you, because I still have your music, but I have lost the opportunity to have your new songs. I have wanted to share this with your family since the fateful day we lost you.
Maybe you didn’t know how well you sang, but it made us all whole. Thank you Harry, Steve and Tom for what you have given me over the years!!
God Bless you!
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