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Home > Music > Stranger with the Melodies

Stranger with the Melodies
by Harry Chapin

It was my first night in that rooming house.
In the last room down the hall
I heard a hoarse voice and an old guitar
Coming through the paper thin walls.
A crazy nonsense nursery rhyme
that did not mean a thing.
But for the first of what was to be a thousand times,
This is what I hear him sing. . .
Hold that D chord on the old guitar,
'Til I found the G.
Drop it down to old E minor
'Til the A chord rolls back home around to D.

I had to lay there listening.
It seemed he was in the room.
This stranger with his melody,
Singing there in the gloom.
And he repeated it over and over again,
Such a soft and sinkin' sound.
It was kind of like a music box that was slowly winding down.
You see, he sang it, he hummed it,
Whistled it, and he strummed it,
He laughed it and he cried it,
He did everything but hide it.
And he sang . . .
Hold that D chord on the old guitar
'Til I found the G
Drop it down to old E minor
'Til the A chord rolls back home around for me

So I lay there in that lumpy bed,
Countin' choruses instead of sheep.
'Til I banged on the wall and out I called,
"Hey bub I need some sleep."
The sudden void of silence, then I heard that hoarse voice say,
"It weren't so long ago boy, they paid me to play "

I said, "It's kind of late for music sir,
Two hours til it's daylight"
He answered, "I need my music most
In these dark hours of the night.
You see I've tried gettin' high on something son,
But it only brings me down.
Staying dry don't work out better boy,
'Cause my eyes get wet and I drown.
Won't you please let me continue
And I'll be in your debt.
You see I'm not singing to remember son,
I'm just singing to forget"

And he sang .. .
Hold that D chord on the old guitar
'Til I found the G
Drop it down to old E minor
'Til the A chord rolls back home around for me.

That's when I said,
"If I'm supposed to listen to you sir,
Just one quick question then.
Why in the hell do you sing one song
Over and over again?"

And this is what he said. . .

He said, "I gave her the music son,
She gave me the words.
Together we'd write the kind of songs
The angels must have heard.
Of course we'd fight like cats and dogs,
But life ain't no rosebud dream.
Still whatever we'd do everybody knew
We truly were a team.
I can't remember now if I done her wrong
Or if she done wrong to me
But all I know that when I let her go
That it did not set me free''
That's when I said, "You sound like what's-his-name"
He said, "That's who I am.
But you can't wrap a name around you boy,
'Cause it really don't mean a damn.
You see, a song don't have much meaning
When it dan't have nothing to say.
What she could do was magic son,
All I could do was play"


He started singing again.
That's when I drifted off
Maybe I dreamed what I heard
'Bout this stranger with his melody
Who'd gone and lost the words.
Hold that D chord on the old guitar
'Til I found the G
Drop it down to old E minor
'Til the A chord rolls back home around to D

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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!