I first heard Harry’s music when I was about 7 or 8 years old. When my Dad and I were driving to my Grandparent’s house for the holidays, we would listen to Harry Chapin’s music for the entire 4-hour round-trip ride.
My family life was never good when I was a child, and on these trips, my father was picking me up from a foster family’s house. It was essentially the only time I would see my Dad, or family. Consequently, some of the happiest times I can remember as a child was singing along to “30,000 Pounds of Bananas,” and “Taxi,” and all of the rest of his great music. At that time, I didn’t understand the songs, nor did I know many of the words; but just sitting there singing Harry’s songs with my Dad fills me with a sad nostalgia.
I know that I am not alone, but a lot of Harry’s songs are about my life, even though I wasn’t even born when he wrote them. He talks to me when I listen to him, and “Cat’s in the Cradle” describes my relationship with my father to a “T.”
Harry is the reason that I became a singer, but, like “Mr. Tanner,” it is my life, and not my livelihood. When I am in a bad mood, “Odd Job Man,” and “Danceband on the Titanic” cheer me up. When I am lonely, “A Better Place to Be” makes me feel better.
Even though I never knew him, Harry has been a teacher, a friend, and the father I really never had. Through his music, I learned about love, life, imagination, loss, and so much more…
A few years back, I got to see a Tribute to Harry in Elgin, Illinois. It was and always will be one of the greatest concerts I have ever been to. They were selling copies of “Looking, Seeing” that had been found in a basement. I got Big John Wallace and Tom and Steve Chapin to autograph it. It is one of my most prized possessions, and not a week goes by that I don’t find myself reading from it.
I am older now, and I understand most of his stories, I know all of the words, and appreciate his messages much more than that child that I was. But I still have a child’s wonder that such a great man existed.
Harry, you have changed my life. You will always be special to me. I hope that you know, wherever you are, that you still touch people’s lives every day….Michael.
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