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"Yes I read it in the New York Times.... It said that dreams were out of fashion. We'll hear no more empty promises. There'll be no more wasted passions. To clutter up our play."
   - Harry Chapin

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Home > Music > Bluesman

Bluesman
by Harry Chapin

The kid heard the word up in Brooklyn.
It was his second year of medical school.
He went and stashed some jeans into his guitar case,
His father said, "You're a fool".
But the boy jumped on board a Greyhound bus,
It took him two days to get to Mobile,
And though it took two weeks to track the old man down,
He never doubted that the rumor was real.

But there the old man stood by the store front,
With his white cane hanging from his belt.
And he was bending the steel of his guitar strings
So it seemed like the metal had to melt.
He was the last of the street corner singers
Paying his final years of dues
The voice in his throat was like a bullfrog croak
Yes it's he who invented the blues.

"To play the blues, boy, you got to live 'em
Got your dues, boy, you know you got to give 'em
Got to start sweet like a slow blues rhythm
Like a heartbeat you'll always be with 'em
When you're married to the blues, boy,
Your guitar is your wife.
It's like that fine old woman
Who you're faithful to for life."

Well the kid walked up as the blind man finished
And was bent to put his guitar away.
The old man heard him and said, "Who are you?"
"I'm the kid you're gonna teach to play."
The old man laughed but the kid kept talking 'bout
How he'd help him get around
That's when the old man said,
"I don't need no fool to get me where in the hell I'm bound"

The kid nods his head with a great big grin and says,
"When do we begin?"
That's when the old man said,
"If You're staying with me
This is how it's got to be..."

"To play the blues, boy, you got to live 'em
Got your dues, boy, you know you got to give 'em
Got to start sweet like a slow blues rhythm
Like a heartbeat you'll always be with 'em
When you're married to the blues, boy,
Your guitar is your wife.
It's like that fine old woman
Who you're faithful to for life."

"You know I ain't no guru,
I'm just a blind black preacher man.
My guitar is my gospel, boy,
And I preach with my picking hand
And I preach with my picking hand
I ain't gonna be your wet nurse,
Or black father to an albino son."
"That's O.K.," the kid up and say,
"I just wanna pick like a son of a gun!"
"Whoa, boy, that ain't no damn typewriter you're playing, now.
You've got to caress it like a woman, slow and easy"
"Like this, old man?"

"No! A fool plays the blues like Machine Gun Kelly,
Five hundred notes to the bar,
And if you're going to stick with me
You've got to learn what the blues really are
You learn to pick with me and you can stick with me
But it's time to blow this town.
We gots a gig to preach in a gaming house
We're Alabama bound"

So the kid took the hand of the old blues man
To lead him all around the south
Now it's the old man's turn to make the white boy learn
"You don't play guitar with your mouth"

To play the blues, boy, you got to live 'em
Got your dues, boy, you know you got to give 'em.
Got to start sweet like a slow blues rhythm
Like a heartbeat you'll always be with 'em.
When you're married to the blues, boy,
Your guitar is your wife.
It's like that fine old woman
Who you're faithful to for life.

All right, son, let's hear some guitar.
I want you to play it funky like your uncle's carbuncle.
That's right, son, play it sassy like your sweet mama's pajamas.
That sounds pretty good for a New York boy!
Oh, son that sounds so sweet.

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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.

 

 


Harry's Music
Bottom Line Encore Collection
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Chapin Music
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Cotton Patch Gospel
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Dance Band On The Titanic*
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Essentials
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Gold Medal Collection
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Greatest Stories Live*
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Harry Chapin Tribute
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Heads & Tales
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Last Protest Singer
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Legends Of Lost & Found*
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Living Room Suite
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On The Road To Kingdom Come
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Portrait Gallery
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Sequel
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Short Stories
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Sniper & Other Love Songs
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Songwriter
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Story of a Life
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Verities & Balderdash
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* = Highly Recommended

The Latest Release

Sniper & Other Love Songs

 
[iTunes]

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 Greatest Stories 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!