I never was much of a Chapin fan. I’d been to hundreds of concerts of hundreds of stars but Harry Chapin’s was not one I was looking forward to. I was actually only going because it was the July 4th holiday, I was bored, wanted some company and mental distraction, and I had good seats.
My wife of 9 years and I were having some problems and were separated at the time. My best friend, and boss, was gonna be alone for the holiday, so since he was a Chapin fan and I acquired a couple of good tickets, I invited him to go to the concert with me. I figured if nothing else, it would kill some time and provide something to do for the evening. When we got into the theatre, there was only a chair on stage so my limited level of excitement dropped further thinking this guy didn’t even have a band.
Well, the concert started, Harry came out alone and said the concert was to raise funds for World Hunger and then he started to sing. I can’t remember which songs he sung, I only knew a few of them, and they were good. But the ones I didn’t know were good, very good and I listened. And for some strange reasons, everything that was negative in my life at the time was being explained to me in lines of stories…how could this guy relate to me…but he did. By intermission, I was in awe and doing a lot of serious thinking.
During intermission, Harry went to the back of the theatre, talked with people and sold his poetry books and the such. I had to meet him, so my best friend and I went back there and by time we got to Harry it was just the three of us. We talked for just 5 or 10 minutes, but I got an eternity out of it. I spent every penny I had on me there because this man believed in what he was doing, saying and singing and definitely convinced me of it all. After the intermission Harry went on stage again, and I had a new meaning in life from everything I heard. We stayed till the very end…much later than the concert because again, Harry stayed around and talked and I HAD to listen.
I went home to my 1 bedroom apartment and couldn’t sleep, I had to think of a way to turn my life around and make a change for the better. The next day the first thing I did was to go the to record store and buy every Chapin album I could find, and I listened to each and every song…every word, WOW, the stories. I couldn’t believe where he could create them from.
I tried desperately over the next month to correct things with my wife, I knew I could do it, but it didn’t work, we divorced and I came home to Michigan with my tail between my legs. I remarried a few years later and even though Harry had passed away, I introduced my wife and my kids to Harry’s music. We listen to it at least weekly and it’s our main source of music in the car on any trip we take. Even though he’s gone…the messages still come thru loud and clear. I only wish she could have gone to a Chapin concert to get the real feeling of it.
I still feel Harry shortchanged himself in his own life, because he gave so much to so many. He could have been like so many of us and lived for himself or his family, but he didn’t, and many many people have him to thank for that. He gave something to me in my mind that July in 1979, and I’ll never forget it.
Even today, because of some of those thoughts, I’m involved with our local Vietnam Veterans Chapter, where we serve the community. For our seventh straight year, we provide food for our needy in a full supply of fixin’s for Thanksgiving, and toys for the children at Christmas. This past holiday season, we fed over 300 families and at Christmas provided great toys to over 1,000 kids who might otherwise do without.
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