In the fall of 1975, my college (Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ) fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega, national service fraternity) decided to try to host a Harry Chapin concert as a fund-raiser for World Hunger Year. I volunteered to chair this effort, and contacted WHY to try to set up a date.

I worked with a man there named Steve Spinola, and we had a lot of trouble settling on a date that would work for all. Finally, after several phone calls, Steve said to me, “Why don’t you just call Harry and work it out between you?” I was stunned! Steve gave me Harry’s home phone number.

Portrait Gallery” was just about to be released, but because of my involvement on the campus radio station, I had already listened to an advanced copy, and of course it was great.

One evening, I got on the phone in the dorm, dialed the number, a man answered, I asked for Harry Chapin, and he answered, “This is Harry”. I was almost speechless, a rare occurrence for me. I explained why I called, and he was very nice, as down-to-earth as anybody, spoke to me as if I were an old friend.

I told him that I had heard his new album, and he wanted to know what I liked and didn’t like (not much!), and seemed genuinely concerned about my opinion. The feeling that my musical idol cared about my thoughts about his music was unbelievable. I walked on air for days.

The concert at Rider never came off as he played that spring at Princeton University instead, only a few miles up the road. I used the phone number only once more, and that was to ask if he could play a song at the Princeton concert (Sunday Morning Sunshine) and dedicate it from the stage to my girlfriend. That time I talked to Sandy (Harry was on tour), she was not very pleasant, and the dedication never came off. I’m sure he never got the message.

We lost him so young, that I regret I was never able to have another personal contact with the greatest songwriter/storyteller/performer of my time. I miss him a lot, and cherish this memory that I have.

Rick Shafarman

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