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A lot has been made lately about Harry s legacy. Was it his genius ability
to tell a story, his humanitarian efforts, etc? I was pondering recently
about what made Harry cut through the clutter, and reach me when I was
fourteen (I m now 33). (the age that Mozart died and Sweet.....well, you
At fourteen, I was learning to play the guitar, and spending hours at the
phonograph slowing down Better Place and W*O*L*D, trying to figure it
all out. You, who may have been older then, may have understood the
stories. I didn t.
Why then, while my friends were into KISS, and Led Zep, did I lock myself
in my room and endure 9-12 minute stories that didn t quite sink in? The
reason is one you may not have considered, though I m sure you ll agree.
Forget the stories, messages, originality, etc. IT WAS THE MUSIC!
Nearly 20 years later, I understand music theory. If you re not a
trust me on this. Harry was a musical GENIUS! If Harry was singing in
a foreign language, you wouldn t care. His chord progressions were quite
complicated. You know the line in Only Was One Choice .... with cracked
old Gibsons and red clay shoes, playing one, four, five chords like good
1,4,5 chords are the basic 3 chords used in almost every song known to
Listen to a country radio station if you need proof of the 3 chord
often built around that strategy with some accepted variation. But
would take us down uncharted territory. Better Place is a nightmare for
unstudied to figure out. I think he made Beethoven and his peers look like
(king of the 1,4,5).
Further, his guitar often told the story before his mouth did. In Better
Place , we
knew immediately when he went out to buy us both some food that
bad was about to happen. Same thing in another story, just before the kid
the door, to find that Ol John Joseph would tell stories no more . We
knew it before he said it. He mentions this during Odd Job Man I have
gone to a minor key.What this means to the layman is.....the plot is about
to thicken. It just amazes me that universities don t offer studies on
Thank you for endulging me.
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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!