It is a funny thing about Harry Chapin’s fans; they seem to come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and genders. I have read all of the previous entries in “Harry’s Friends” letter archives.
Over and over again people write about how they were able to see Harry live, even just once. I, myself, am too young to remember Harry’s death (I was barely 8 years old then). Now at 26, I think back to the first time I was affected and influenced by Harry’s insight. It must have been in the summer of 1986 or 1987. I was at a summer camp in Indiana. (Until that time, I was only familiar with “Cats In The Cradle” merely because of the campfire chorus line…)
It was a balmy August Saturday night. All of the camp was gathered around the campfire. The perfect time for those teenage summer romances to flourish and explode. Huddled on the ground next to that summer’s heartthrob, the song leader of the eve circled the fire with his 6-string hanging over one shoulder. He gave us a very brief explanation of Harry’s life and then began to talk of this woman… Corey. Breaking into “Corey’s Coming,” the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. This story was like nothing I’d ever heard before. (Coming from a time when the biggest bands on the radio were Duran Duran, U2, and the like of the 80’s genre.) My attention quickly moved from that of the young girl on my arm, and drifted to that of the old girl in my heart, because “when she holds you, she unfolds you, in her world…”
I was entranced. I wanted more. I needed to find out everything that I could about this Harry Chapin. When I returned back to my suburban life in Cincinnati later that summer, all that I could think and talk about was the music of this storyteller that changed my life. Instantly, I began to play all of my father’s Harry LP’s. “Greatest Stories” became the focus of my musical experience. The lessons and lives of the people that Harry sang about caused me to dream.
As the years rolled slowly past, I moved onto High school, where I continued to cherish Harry’s words, yet never shared the gift with my peers, for fear that I’d be ridiculed for being a “folkie,” as it were. College came and I HAD to be a longhaired hippie “deadhead,” once again, hiding my Harry roots. (Although by this time that “Greatest” LP, as well as all of the others, had long since been worn out and replaced by gold CD.) I dropped out of college and picked up a career in Real Estate. Proving everything to the world, and nothing to myself. Six years later I came full circle, and realized the lessons that Harry was trying to teach me.
About a year ago, I came upon an interesting guest book message in a Harry Chapin link site (which one I simply cannot recall). This message told of a young lady, just out of high school. She wrote of how she had gone through some very difficult times (the specifics I choose not to mention), and the words of Harry’s music were the only thing that got her through those times. This message struck me like a brick over the head. I too had been helped by Harry’s words. Time and time again. I felt compelled to respond to that message. (Something that I had never done before that, or since then). Over the last year, that young lady has come to be one of my closest and dearest friends. She’s helped me to understand much of life… Much like Harry has.
At that same time, I quit my career and returned to college, studying my passions—Philosophy. Establishing that my place on this world is not to achieve greatness materialistically, but to make the smallest of great impacts (if that is possible) in the lives of all of those that I come in contact with. My plan is to continue on in higher education and achieve a Masters in Social Work. Working proactively in non-profits, making this world a better place for all of us to share.
I urge everyone to carefully consider the precise impact that they have upon the people in their lives. Anytime life seems to trouble me, or lead me down the wrong path, I always seem to see the brighter side after listening to Harry swoon. It amazes me how, in so many different ways, he has changed my life and the way that I look at things. He has taught me compassion and allowed me to appreciate the gifts, and people, that come into my life.
I apologize for the lengthy, wordy writing, yet I feel as though my message has been conveyed. Harry Chapin has made an impact on all of us. I do not regret that I was never able to see him live (although it would have been a treat). I do not regret that I was not able to get an autographed “Harry… it s—ks!” t-shirt (although, that too would be a treat). I do not regret that I am too young to remember his death (or life…). I am able to now appreciate and reap the rewards of all of Harry’s hard work. Isn’t that truly what he was working to achieve? A difference “that, at the end of the day, you settle easy, you sleep to sleep for the just, and you can say, “take me away.”” It is the “good tired” that makes all of the difference in my life, and that is what I thank Harry for.
michael_f_weinstein at yahoo.com
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