I will never forget the experience I had on Sunday, May 3, 1998. I attended a Tribute to Harry Chapin, put on by The Steve Chapin Band in Columbus, Ohio. How I ended up there is amazing and all started on December 7, 1997, the date that would have been Harry Chapin’s 55th birthday.
I came to my office that Sunday morning and with Harry on my mind, I decided to see if there was something I could perhaps write in his honor. Two days earlier, I wrote an article about Harry’s birthday for my local newspaper (have had 15-20 articles published by them) hoping they would print it. I went to the internet and called up “littlejason.com,” then clicked on the Harry Chapin site. Upon experimenting, I found a chat line and sent my best wishes in tribute to Harry’s birthday. I noted that I wrote an article on the chat line, then all of a sudden, I was getting e-mails from people all over the Country, asking to send them my article.
I was happy to comply. One e-mail to me stood out, it was from Bob Marr, who has his own Chapin sites and he asked me to e-mail him the article. He published it on the “Harry’s Friends” site, then I got even more e-mails. This was the beginning of so much more to come.
I have talked via e-mail to so many people, several of which, I still do. I read all of the stories on the “Harry’s Friends” site. I couldn’t believe how many people still feel the same way I do, especially considering that Harry died seventeen years ago.
Upon further playing with my computer, I have since have had e-mail contact with Peter Coan, who wrote the biography about Harry called “Taxi, The Harry Chapin Story” and Paul Barrosse who will be Producing a VH-1 Special “Behind the Music” about Harry, in July. Both of these guys couldn’t have been nicer. I then noticed that there was going to be a Harry Chapin Tribute in early May, to be held at Chapin’s Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Although it seemed crazy, I booked a flight and sent a check to the restaurant, with my wife’s blessing (since she knows how much Harry means to me). I had high hopes (as an ultimate optimist) of meeting some of the Chapin family. I just had a feeling that this spontaneous decision was going to be worth it and something special was going to happen.
I flew up to Columbus the morning of the Tribute and arrived at my Hotel around 1:00 P.M. According to the papers that were sent to me, seating was scheduled from 4:30 – 5:00 P.M., then dinner, then the concert, then dessert, and then more of the concert. I showed up at 4:30 P.M. that afternoon and besides the restaurant staff, I was the first one there. The restaurant was magnificent. It was loaded with Harry Chapin’s life history. There were special headphones which you could listen to all about Harry. Pictures everywhere, letters from celebrities, politicians and awards were throughout the restaurant. I was in awe of everything.
As people started to arrive, I quickly asked what table I was at, so I could get the best seat facing the stage. Then I looked up and saw a man with gray hair and when I saw his face, chills went through me. It was Harry’s face, it had to be his father. I went over to introduce myself and told him how much Harry means to me. I also told him that his father (Harry’s grandfather) has inspired me to do what I feel I was meant to be. Jim Chapin couldn’t have been nicer and appreciated what I told him. Then, the band started to arrive. There was Big John, Steve and Howie, right in front of me. I also noticed a girl with the Band, so I introduced myself and she told me she was Steve’s wife, Angel.
Once again, I told Angel about my trip from Florida and how much her family meant to me. She was incredibly nice to me and told me that later she would introduce me to Steve and the guys.
I sat at a table for seven and we all had something in common, Harry Chapin. The people at my table and I had plenty to talk about. When we finished eating, the Band started playing. They did a lot of Harry’s music and a couple of songs of their own. They were great. Right before they started playing, Jim Chapin came over to my table to talk. It was like a dream. I didn’t bring my camera, but the girl sitting next to me had hers and she took a picture of Jim and I. I can’t wait to get it.
Before the Band took a break, Steve got his father on stage and sat in on a couple of songs. Howie Fields watched and I could tell how much this meant to him. Then, during the break, I went to the bar area to try and take Angel up on her offer. She brought me over to meet the band and they couldn’t have been nicer. We talked for a while, mostly about Harry and also how great it was having Jim there. Angel treated me like family, I never could thank her enough.
After dessert, the Band came back and once again were incredible. Towards the end of the show, Steve had his dad come up again and participate in Circle. Jim was once again great.
As the concert ended, I went towards the front of the restaurant and Big John was right next to me. We talked, it was a real treat. I told him that I always thought it was Harry’s voice halfway through Taxi, but realized it was his after I heard the Band play it. It is the portion about “Babies so high that she flying…”
I then went back to my Hotel and felt real good. The trip was well worth the expense, it was everything I hoped for and a lot more. Then next morning, I went to breakfast and saw Steve Chapin sitting by himself. I talked to him briefly and he remembered who I was. Then, Angel came down as they were getting ready to leave in their Van. She once again called me over to the Van to meet Howie (the only one I didn’t meet the previous night). I thanked them all once again and told them that the next time they play in Florida, I would be there.
When I arrived home, I told my family all about the trip. They were real happy for me. This was truly one of the highlights of my life.
One last note, I would like to thank the staff of Chapin’s Restaurant, especially Tammy Tatman for their part in making the evening so special. They did a great job.
Steven M. Cohn
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