Personally, I feel that Harry Chapin writes like no other. And sings like no other.
My favorite band is Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. I believe that they deserve a lot more credit than they got. And their writer, Shel Silverstein, really pulled off some good ones though, no song by Shel or the good Doctor could top most of Harry’s songs.
His songs don’t JUST sing about love, sex, rock and roll, drugs, jealousy and all other typical subjects. He sings about them alright, but in a different way. He puts a story behind it. He puts it in a good read between the lines perspective.
For example: She is always Seventeen, he doesn’t say “She held me through the night as we heard that J.F.K. was dead”. He says, “She held me through the night as we heard what had happened in that brutal Dallas light”. He says so many things in such a delicate way and I think that’s what makes Harry Chapin who he is.
Stories behind the facts in songs really help them become more moving. Example: In Sequel he doesn’t just take a taxi strait to Sue’s house, he throws in the fact that he stopped at the place she use to live and the butler told him she don’t live there any more. And then he didn’t just go back to the cab and was there, he sang about what he had said to the cabby and made it fit PERFECT.
Another thing that REALLY makes Harry who he is, is all the songs with hidden meanings in them. Example: While listening (for the first time) to The Rock, you might think that he is singing of a boy who is convinced that a huge rock that is leaning over the city is going to fall and kill the town. To the “naked ear” that is what the song is saying. But take a closer listen. He is not just singing about a damn rock, he is singing in general: Ozone layer, world hunger, environment, trees, recycling.
All of these things, people just put it off and say “oh hell, I’m just one person, I ain’t gonna make a difference.” And they don’t recycle. And sure, maybe in their life time they won’t see a change, “but if your watching very closely…the rock moves a little bit.” He ain’t singing about the rock, he is saying…very slowly, by our carelessness, the whole in the ozone is getting bigger, more people are going hungry, more trees are being cut down and very slowly, the faces of the earth are being covered with shit, because nobody is recycling. Nobody takes action against that rock, so very slowly, but someday, the rock will rumble into and over top of that city. Just like not taking action against world hunger, many thousands will die. The rock will get us some day.
Well I hope I didn’t bore you all to death, but I just had to get that off my chest. Never have I been one for words, but I sure hope you’ll understood what I am trying to say, Harry is not just a musician, he is a hero in words.
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