I can’t recall when I first heard Harry Chapin sing. I only know that when Taxi first hit the airwaves, I remarked to a friend that I’ve heard “this guy” before. However, my intense interest in Harry’s music didn’t truly blossom until 1978–the year my wife and I divorced.
There is not enough space here to tell the entire story. Suffice it to say that Harry’s lyrics and his sage advice to me were what made it possible for me to tear down my old value system and build a new one that could nourish and protect me while I constructed a whole new way of looking at the world. I have often said, and meant, that I owe the survival of my emotions, indeed of my life, to Harry.
Through his urging, I began to study guitar. In August of 1980, he made me promise to write my first song by the time I saw him next. By the end of October, the song was written, though my brother had to transcribe the music. After one brief rehearsal, we headed off to see Harry in concert, on Nov.2, 1980 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
Following the concert, and following all the selling and signing, just Harry, my brother and I, and a handful of fans remained. We sat Harry down on wide marble steps in the lobby. He lounged there while my brother and I performed my song–“The Man who Sings Stories (Storyman).” Yes, the song was about Harry. When we finished, he leaped up off the steps, threw his right arm and fist in the air, and let out with the biggest “Well All Right” that I had ever heard from him. That was the high point.
I only saw Harry once more after that–in April of 1981 at the Valley Forge Music Fair. In July, my ex-wife called me at work to tell me the news. My son, Corey (2 years older than the song) who had met Harry several times, heard of the accident on TV. He ran into the living room, lay down on the sofa and cried for 4 hours straight.
At first I didn’t believe it–some kind of sadistic joke. When the reality hit me, I headed for Huntington, There, I made friends that I know to this day. The following year, July 16, 1982 I visited the grave site, placed a bouquet on the ground, with a note that said, “You Are the Only Song.” Then I took off a black arm band that I had worn 24/7 for a year (often suffering ridicule, from those that couldn’t or wouldn’t get it) and placed the armband atop the bouquet.
Through the year that followed, Harry stayed in my life. Though I don’t expect that many will understand this, shortly after attending a Dr. Pepper (memorial) concert for Harry on July 16, 1983 the feelings of loss became increasingly intense and unbearable. Time did not do its usual job. Instead of making it easier, the feelings of loss became unbearable. For the sake of my own sanity, I had to “leave” Harry and his music (and even my own), though, of course, I never left or forgot the lessons he taught me.
It was not until late summer, of 2002, that the premature passing of another of Harry’s fans, found me the recipient of her Harry Chapin albums (all of which I already had, safely tucked away, of course).
All of a sudden, I could again rejoice in the joy of Harry’s music and humanity. Today, I am like a drunken sailor–I cannot get enough of Harry to “drink.”
I may be a lot older, and probably no wiser, but Harry, I’m Back.
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