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"... I believe that my brother was a great man. But, unlike most other great men, his greatness did not come from diminishing those around him. He made himself great, in part, by finding the best in those around him."
   - James Chapin

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Home > Music > Bummer

Bummer
by Harry Chapin

His mama was a midnight woman
His daddy was a drifter drummer
One night they put it together
Nine months later came the little black bummer


He was a laid back lump in the cradle
Chewing the paint chips that fell from the ceiling
Whenever he cried he got a fist in his face
So he learned not to show his feelings


He was a pig-tail puller in grammer school
Left back twice by the seventh grade
Sniffing glue in Junior High
And the first one in school to get laid


He was a weed-speed pusher at fifteen
He was mainlining skag a year later
He'd started pimping when they put him away
In jail he changed from a junkie to a hater


And just like the man from the precinct said:
"Put him away, you better kill him instead.
A bummer like that is better of dead
Someday they're gonna have to put a bullet in his head."


They threw him back on the street, he robbed an A & P
He didn't blink at the buddy that he shafted
And just about the time they would have caught him too
He had the damn good fortune to get drafted


He was A-One bait for Vietnam, you see they needed more bodies in a hurry
He was a cinch to train cause all they had to do
Was to figure how to funnel his fury


They put him in a tank near the D M Z
To catch the gooks slipping over the border
They said his mission was to Search and Destroy
And for once he followed and order


One sweat-soaked day in the Yung-Po Valley
With the ground still steaming from the rain
There was a bloody little battle that didn't mean nothing
Except to the few that remained


You see a couple hundred slants had trapped the other five tanks
And had started to pick off the crews
When he came on the scene and it really did seem
This is why he'd paid those dues


It was something like a butcher going berserk
Or a sane man acting like a fool
Or the bravest thing that a man had ever done
Or a madman blowing his cool


Well he came on through like a knife through butter
Or a scythe sweeping through the grass
Or to say it like the man would have said it himself:
"Just a big black bastard kicking ass!"


And just like the man from the precinct said:
"Put him away, you better kill him instead.
A bummer like that is better of dead
Someday they're gonna have to put a bullet in his head."


When it was over and the smoke had cleared
There were a lot of V C bodies in the mud
And when the rescued men came over for the very first time
They found him smiling as he lay in his blood


They picked up the pieces and they stitched him back together
He pulled through though they thought he was a goner
And it force them to give him what they said they would
Six purple hearts and the Medal of Honor


Of course he slouched as the chief white honkey said:
"Service beyond the call of duty"
But the first soft thought was passing through his mind
"My medal is a Mother of a beauty!"


He got a couple of jobs with the ribbon on his chest
And though he tried he really couldn't do 'em
There was only a couple of things that he was really trained for
And he found himself drifting back to 'em
Just about the time he was ready to break
The V A stopped sending him his checks
Just a matter of time 'cause there was no doubt
About what he was going to do next


It ended up one night in a grocery store
Gun in hand and nine cops at the door
And when his last battle was over
He lay crumpled and broken on the floor


And just like the man from the precinct said:
"Put him away, you better kill him instead.
A bummer like that is better of dead
Someday they're gonna have to put a bullet in his head."


Well he'd breathed his last, but ten minutes past
Before they dared to enter the place
And when they flipped his riddled body over they found
His second smile frozen on his face


They found his gun where he'd thrown it
There was something else clenched in his fist
And when they pried his fingers open they found the Medal of Honor
And the Sergeant said: "Where in the hell he get this?"


There was a stew about burying him in Arlington
So they shipped him in box to Fayette
And they kind of stashed him in a grave in the county plot
The kind we remember to forget


And just like the man from the precinct said:
"Put him away, you better kill him instead.
A bummer like that is better of dead
Someday they're gonna have to put a bullet in his head."

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

* = 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!