Guest Author - Carol Taller
Harry Forster Chapin was born on December 7, 1942 and is best known for his folk rock story telling songs including “Cat’s in the Cradle”. He began his career briefly as a documentary filmmaker and he was also a dedicated humanitarian working to fight world hunger.
Chapin was born in New York City. He was the second of four children and lived a middle class family life. His father was a drummer for “big band” acts and spent a great deal of time of the road. When his parents divorced in 1950 his mother Jeanne Elspeth retained custody.
His early singing experience began with the Brooklyn Boys Choir. As a teenager he often performed with his brothers, and occasionally his father played drums as they performed.
Chapin graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1960 and briefly joined the United States Air Force. He also attended Cornell University for a short period of time but did not graduate.
Chapin married Sandy Cashmore in 1968. She was a New York socialite nine years older than Chapin and called him to ask for music lessons. Their romance is told in his song “I Wanna Learn a Love Song”. Several other songs were written about her including “Sandy” and “Shooting Star”.
Chapin planned on a career as a documentary filmmaker. He directed “Legendary Champions” in 1968 and was nominated for an Academy Award. By 1971 he refocused his career on music.
Chapin’s first recorded album was with his brothers Tom and Steve, and was not successful. This was followed by his more successful solo albums: “Heads and Tales” in 1972, “Short Stories” in 1973, “Verities and Balderdash” in 1974, and “Danceband on the Titanic” in 1977.
His chart topping “Cat’s in the Cradle” was recorded 1974 and brought his career into stardom phase. It was his only number one hit, but it shot album sales up and made him a millionaire.
Later, Chapin began writing and performing in Broadway musicals including “The Night That Made America Famous”.
As a philanthropist, Chapin fought against world hunger. He held benefit concerts and sold merchandise to help support the fight against world hunger. He allegedly gave away much of his own money that he earned and had little money left when he died. After his death he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
On July 16, 1981 Chapin was killed in a car accident while driving on the Long Island Expressway. He was survived by his wife Sandy, their two children, and three stepchildren.