My parents, particularly my father, were of the 1960s “Hippie Crowd.” My father loved to play guitar, and would often sing and play to my sister and I. But,as sometimes happens, things don’t always work out and he and my mother divorced. I saw him only a couple weekends a month, but I remember having some great times with him going to see different music concerts, and also camping trips where he and others would make their own “concerts.”

Probably my biggest single memory of all of this is the song “Cats in the Cradle,” which actually took a very real twist when my father left for Texas, and I heard nothing from him for the next 10 years of my life.

My musical interests develop…

From the time my father left, until I was about 12 or so (1984), I had no real musical interests. When I entered middle school, I found the New York Hardcore scene-in a nutshell, an outgrowth of punk rock. However, contrary to “popular” belief, the music was very idealistic, if not exactly in a peaceful manner, nor ever really accomplishing anything. As I delved deeper into this scene, it became my way of life. I began to “road” for a band and even wrote some lyrics.(email me for some examples, its kind of funny how I was writing about the homeless and the problems of society, without fully understanding where my ideals were formed). However, as I was saying, this scene was full of violence, and by the time I was 16 I was tossed from school, practically estranged from my mother and stepfather, and going nowhere. A couple more years go by and I decide that the only way to get myself together is in the service. I join the Marines in 1990.

How I find Harry…

Its now 1992, my time is passing in the Marines, and and I actually start to feel that I have a purpose in life. But, without boring any of you with “war stories,” as I am dragging this on as it is, I severely injure my knee. ‘Helping someone else!’ But, it’s not a quick trip home. I have to be “rehabbed” and processed in an “admin” company before I am medically (and Honourably) discharged. I constantly listen to the radio to pass the time, and I hear “Cats in the Cradle.”

Childhood memories return, and I try to find the song on a tape. Problem though-I didn’t know the artist’s name. So-I wind up with *Cat Stevens.* :)(OK stop laughing now) Well, needless to say, I never did find “CITC” on any of his tapes, but I recognised “Moon Shadow” and a few others,and the seed was hatched. I eventually wind up back home, where I meet a girl, get a house, establish a business, etc etc. My taste in music has moved towards folk and classic rock, although I still attended a few hardcore shows now and then. Fast forward to October,1997. I hear “CITC” on the radio on a job, and, lo and behold, the name of an artist. Harry Chapin.

I left the job right then and there, and went to a to a record shop (CD store?) that was a mile or 2 away. I found-NOTHING. But a decided to ask the woman behind the counter if she had anything in the back. Well, she had the Gold Medal Collection. I must have listened to it 1000 times, end to end, over and over. I had found the music from my youth! I started researching Harry on the internet, buying his music, collecting memorabilia.

His life and music became my obsession. As I said earlier, I had some sort of ideals in me from hardcore music, and started looking at things a little differently. I made a donations to a few charities, and tried to be a more tolerant of those around me. *I contacted my father.* We talked for hours and I came to find out I had seen Harry at least 5 times, all between the ages of 4 and 8. Well, that information deepened my resolve to find out all I could about Harry. His music began moving me in ways I had never before felt.

I cried reading the Newsday articles about his death. Certain songs would also bring me to tears. “Taxi” helped bring me back together at least for a couple last fantastic months, with the woman I love. As the anniversary of Harry’s death approached, I made plans to attend the tribute concert with Steve, John and Howie on Long Island. I left early on the day of the concert. I stopped on the LIE at the site of the accident.

I then went to the graveyard. It took me awhile, but I found Harry’s marker. I fell to my knees,completely overcome with emotion. I must have stayed there for 2 hours just me and the marker of a man I never really knew, and cannot even say that I have any more than vague memories of. I talked out loud maybe to myself, maybe to Harry and I felt him say that immortal line “do something.”


I went on to the concert that afternoon. I got to meet the guys, made a few friends, and enjoyed Steve’s music, but even more so the music of a man who had become MY hero, Harry Chapin. I watched the VH1 special the following night, but, like the boy in Corey’s Coming, my life’s path was decided in that graveyard.

I have a reasonably successful business, as well as the public exposure of being a nationally ranked motorcycle racer. And I have decided to “do something.” Watch the newsgroup for the next few months. I am going to be contacting representatives from WHY and the Chapin Foundation with a few ideas that have been brewing in my head in the past couple weeks.

I may not ever be the success that Harry was in helping those less fortunate, but I made a promise to myself that day that I can and will make a difference. I will “DO SOMETHING”.

Jay Dermer

Please note: this story is the sole property of its author. Unauthorized use is prohibited without the author’s permission.