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How Harry Died
If anyone has more accurate information than this, please correct me. I am
just compiling "facts" from Harry's biography, newspaper and magazine articles
and tv news reports and we all know that any of these sources might not be
There is speculation about the exact cause of Harry's
death. He was driving on the Long Island Expressway on Thursday July 16,
1981 just after noon, in the left hand fast lane, at about 65 miles an hour,
and then for an unknown reason, either because of engine failure or some
physical problem (thought to be a possible heart attack) put on his emergency
flashers near Exit 40 in Jericho, NY. He then slowed to about 15 miles an
hour and veered into the center lane nearly colliding with another car at
that point. He swerved back left, then back right again and this time went
directly in front of a tractor-trailer truck owned by Supermarkets General.
The truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Harry's blue 1975 VW
Rabbit, rupturing the gas tank and causing it to burst into flames. This
occurred at 12:29 p.m.
The driver of the truck, 57 year old Robert Eggleton of South Plainfield, NJ
and another passerby were able to get Harry out of the burning car through the window and
by cutting the seatbelts, before the car was completely engulfed. (the news
reports showed the car and there was hardly anything left of it) He was taken
by police helicopter to the hospital where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes
to revive him. Ed Smith, a spokesman for the Nassau County Medical Center
said that Harry had suffered a massive heart attack and "died of cardiac
arrest" but there was no way of knowing whether it occurred before or after
the accident. The news reports at first reported that he had died of a heart
attack and then later said that death was caused by the impact which tore the
artery away from the heart.
Supposedly the only initial means of identification on Harry was a gold pocket watch, but police were later able
to make identification through a license plate check.
Sandy did win a $12 million decision in a negligence lawsuit against Supermarkets General even
though Harry's driver's license was revoked at the time of the accident.
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"Oh, if a man tried to take his time on earth and prove before he died what one man's life could be worth, I wonder what would happen to this world?" -- Harry Chapin, 1942-1981.
The Latest Release
Sniper & Other Love Songs
In 1972, Harry released
Sniper & Other Love Songs.
Thirty years would pass before the album would ever reach the CD format. Sniper was finally re-released in June, 2002.
Originally given a working title of Sweet City Suite, the album tells the story of various characters one might run into in
a city. The album features the original studio versions of Chapin classics "A Better Place to Be" and "Circle." But
perhaps more importantly (as those songs are already well-distributed on compilation CDs), the album features seemingly
lost Chapin stories, including "And the Baby Never Cries," "Burning Herself," "Barefoot Boy," and "Woman Child."
Sniper is for the seasoned Chapin fan. New fans would do better to check out
Live. But for Chapin fans who have reached the level of the
Dance Band on the Titanic album, this is the next step. Slightly over-produced and having a little of the "forced"
feel that some of Harry's studio albums possess, this album does not capture the powerfully live Harry Chapin. Nonetheless,
it captures Harry's great iconoclastic songwriting--Harry takes the story song to new heights here. But the album works best
for those ready for it; don't buy it until you are ready to appreciate it!