life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, July 18, 2015

VH-1 -- Behind the Music/Harry Chapin

YouTube is a treasure trove.  Look at what I found:



 

Somehow it's fitting that the very first "Behind the Music" was about Harry Chapin.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about Harry.  I've blogged about it often enough.

With my recent visits to Eisenhower Park (the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater), and with a sad anniversary a few days ago, I've been thinking about Harry....

All the years that he was popular, Harry lived on Long Island..  He was a philanthropist, very much involved in local arts programs and also created Long Island Cares, a food bank serving our  region.

First time I saw a Harry Chapin concert was in 1975, in my very own high school.  Just Harry and his guitar and a backpack full of story songs. Harry lived in Huntington, and he had a habit of playing concerts at Long Island schools.  I believe the concert he gave at my school was a fundraiser for his cause -- Long Island Cares, I think. 

Saw him again at Hecksher Park in Huntington (the stage in that park is also named for him), where he appeared in support of the local arts council.  After the show we all lined up to meet him.  He signed an autograph and kissed me on the cheek.

When I was in college, I saw Harry and his band at a theater in Schenectady, NY.  Great concert.

And then came July 16, 1981.  Harry was going to play a concert in Eisenhower Park.  The park personnel  were expecting huge crowds.  My friends and I wanted a good spot on the lawn, so we got to the park very, very early to stake out our claim.    A blanket on the lawn, some board games to pass the time, and the ubiquitous boom box, the radio tuned to our favorite station.

The radio played "Taxi" and "Cat's In The Cradle" back to back.  And then the DJ announced that Harry had died.

A few minutes later, someone walked out onto the stage and announced that the concert was cancelled and we should all go home.  We left, we headed to a diner.  but I saw on the 11:00 news that many other fans stayed, and sang Harry's song as tribute to him.

If you watch the video, you'll see footage from July 1981.  You'll see the wreck that was his car, sitting on the Long Island Expressway.  You'll see his brothers enter the Nassau County Medical Examiner's Office, on their way to identify his body.  Footage that really sets off a wave of emotion for me, even now. 

Two reasons, I think.  Reason one:  it happened here, where I live, places that are so familiar to me.  I use the LIE all the time, I can't tell you how many times I've driven past the spot where Harry died.

But more importantly, Harry was a friend.  A genuinely nice guy.  So accessible to his fans.  I mean, how many artists, at the height of their popularity, would play a full concert in a high school auditorium for a bunch of teenagers? 

Gone too soon.  Gone way too soon.

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