|Harry Chapin in concert|
Yes, Harry Chapin - the American folk-rock performer best known for his 1970's hits "Cats In The Cradle" and "Taxi" - is today's entry in a new series imaginatively titled "Unlucky figures in Popular Music".
A gifted songwriter & performer (and noted humanitarian), Chapin released over 9 albums in his lifetime, before his untimely death at age 38 in 1981.
The circumstances of his death were bizarre - a tragic series of events unfolded whilst Harry was on his way to perform at a free concert in New York, ending his life in an appalling way.
The following account is taken from Wikipedia:
“On Thursday, July 16, 1981, just after noon, Chapin was driving in the left lane on the Long Island Expressway at about 65 mph on the way to perform at a free concert scheduled for later that evening at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York. Near exit 40 in Jericho he put on his emergency flashers, presumably because of either a mechanical or medical problem (possibly a heart attack). He then slowed to about 15 miles (24 km) per hour and veered into the center lane, nearly colliding with another car. He swerved left, then to the right again, ending up directly in the path of a tractor-trailer truck. The truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Chapin's blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the fuel tank and causing it to burst into flames.
|Harry at his best: "Greatest Stories Live" (1976)|
The driver of the truck and a passerby were able to get Chapin out of the burning car through the window and by cutting the seat belts before the car was engulfed in flames. Chapin was taken by police helicopter to a hospital, where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes to revive him”.
Wow. So Harry didn't only endure a (suspected) heart attack, but a car crash as well, and a resulting inferno that required some heroic efforts from people on the scene to prevent him from being incinerated??? Unbelievable, but it happened, and the music world lost a major talent that day in 1981...
Perhaps the unluckiest part of Harry's legacy though concerns his best known song, "Cat's In The Cradle".
A test for your consideration: ask any 10 people between the ages of 25 and 55 the question "Who sung Cat's In The Cradle?" and invariably you will get the following results:
- 7 out of 10 people will tell you "Cat Stevens" (some type of subliminal word-association involving the word "cat" is probably to blame here, although I'm sure a psychologist could explain it better)
- 2 out of 10 people will answer "Harry Chapin"
- 1 out of 10 people will answer "Ugly Kid Joe" (!)
|Obligatory Ugly Kid Joe photo.|
So there you go. Pretty heavy stuff.
But enough of Harry's awful string of bad luck - let's leave this on a positive note: grab a copy of his 1976 live album "Greatest Stories Live" for an entertaining dose of the man's talents...
And if you can't find it then I'm sure you can dig up Ugly Kids Joe's half-assed "Cat's" cover version on YouTube. Whatever floats your boat.