Written by David Clements
Jul 16, 2011
ImageThis is my first review for HoustonMusicReview.com, and hopefully not my last.

This review started 40 years ago in Virginia.  The year 1972 was the first time I saw Harry Chapin live in concert.  This review, as you will soon read is all about Harry “Cat’s In The Cradle” Chapin.

Harry wasn’t able to make it to the July 16th,2011 concert in Huntington,  NY.  You see, Harry died in a horrible car crash on the Long Island Expressway near his home town of Huntington 30 years ago, to the day,in 1981.

Going back in time, I remember hearing the news of his death in my suburban home in Houston, TX by phone from friends that knew I was a huge Harry Chapin fan.    It was indeed a sad day for me and so many in the world.

I can’t remember exactly the first time I heard Harry Chapin sing Taxi, however I remember I was hooked big time after I heard the song….”It was raining hard in Frisco.  I needed one more fare to make my night…”

“She said how are you Harry…I said how are you Sue”

“She handed me $20 for a $2.50 fare and said ‘Harry, keep the change’”

“I go flying so high when I’m stoned”

From that point forward I found I couldn’t get enough of Harry’s music and his live shows.  Whenever he would perform within a couple hundred miles of my home, I would go to both his early and late shows.  At one point I think I knew every word he would say before he’d say them!

For thirty years now I think I have been silently grieving his death alone mainly because his big fan base was on the east coast and I’ve been here in Houston all that time.Image
Now back to now. The free show, on the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park, Huntington, NY, was an event I won’t soon forget.

We arrived at the park 11 hours before the show.  Many folks had gathered there earlier than us and had scouted out their spots on the lawn in front of the stage, marking them with blankets and chairs.

We toured the Huntington area for a few hours after getting one of the few remaining spots ‘up front’, just to the left of the stage.
By our return to the park that afternoon for sound check there wasn’t a spot to be found without blankets, lawn chairs, or people hunkering down and waiting for show time.

It was exciting for me to try to put names and faces of Chapin’s family together as they were up testing their instruments.  On some level it was like going to a family reunion.  I first spotted band member Big John Wallace who had provided such great bass guitar and back up vocals for all those years.  He looked just like I remembered him other than the color of his hair.

Anyway, sound check gave me a strong hint that we were all going to be in for a great show later that evening.

The bottom-line of the night was that my instinct was spot on!  Wow, what a fabulous show they put on!

For almost 3 hours some 14 different family members and friends played and sang to a record crowd estimated at over 7000 people.  All, I think, who had come to celebrate Harry Chapin’s life, his music, and his generous soul.Image

Harry’s two brothers, Steve and Tom Chapin ( www.TomChapin.com ), were the first two to perform and were on and off the stage several times during the course of the evening.

Tom’s three daughters, The Chapin Sisters, (www.thechapinsisters.com) were the next to perform and did a terrific job remembering their Uncle Harry.  If you want to hear three beautiful women harmonizing you might want to check them out.  They ‘came well prepared and had the range of tonal color necessary to make them consistently interesting.  Full time consideration of another endeavor would not be in order’.

Speaking of consistently interesting and beautiful, after the Chapin Sisters first appearance on stage, Harry’s now 40 yr. old daughter, Jen Chapin (www.jenchapin.com) came on stage and kicked proverbial butt.  One of the music highlights of the evening was her original song Gold.  There was a 4 minute standing bass intro by her husband and band member Stephan Crump that blew the audience away.  What a pretty piece of music ; one of the best I’ve heard in a very long time.  Wow Jen, your Dad would have been so proud of you and your performance.

The concert was an emotional rollercoaster for me as Harry’s songs were performed by Tom, Steve, Big John Wallace, and Howard (Howie in the old days) Fields.  There were also some 2nd generation Chapin’s and Wallace’s on stage with them.  It was obvious throughout the night that the acorns hadn’t fallen far from the trees!

Several times during Taxi, Cat’s In The Cradle, and WOLD, when I closed my eyes I could take myself back in time and hear Harry’s voice over his brothers.  Each time that occurred I had to quickly open my eyes to keep from crying…you know how us guys are.

By the end of the evening I was emotionally drained, tired from the ups and downs of trying to capture photographically what was transpiring and yet settled into a deep sense of closure.  I could close the circle and move on to celebrating Harry’s life ‘vs’ mourning his death.
Harry, thanks for the memories and God bless your beautiful family, band mates, and friends.