Harry Chapin’s Mr. Tanner

Harry Chapin wrote a song, “Mr. Tanner” about a Midwest cleaner who dreamed of being a professional singer. We learned to identify with someone pursuing the desire of becoming famous beyond a meager existence. Only to have those dreams dashed by a NY Times critic’s review. The sweetest solace is the last verse.

Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

As it turns out Connecticut and Mr. Tanner have quite the bond. The song was recorded in   Bridgeport at Paul Leka‘s Connecticut Recording studio in 1973. On Saturday night , 11/12 at the Quick Center on the Fairfield University campus three related events intersected with Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner”.

  1. The real Mr. Tanner and the inspiration for the song, Martin Turbidy is discovered  living in Weston, CT.  He is invited to attend The Chapin Family concert as their special guest.
  2. He joined The Chapin Family on stage to sing, “Mr. Tanner” which validated the real person featured in the song from 1974 performing the song live.

3. There will be a children’s book, Mr. Tanner, based on Harry Chapin’s song with a                        happy ending :). The author, Bryan Langdo and book company representative, Rod                  Broder  of Ripple Grove Press were in attendance in the lobby, promoting the future                book with preliminary copies on  display  and  taking pre-orders.

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Harry Chapin’s Legacy 30 Years On!

This Saturday, July 16th will be the 30th anniversary of Harry Chapin‘s death. We so miss him. Harry Chapin was someone we got close to knowing and seeing in concert many times, at his Broadway play, and during the recording of Verities and Balderdash at Paul Leka’s recording studio in Bridgeport, CT.

The remarkable aspect about Harry Chapin was that he would always find the time to talk to you. I interviewed Harry Chapin several times in my music journalism career. He was always friendly, open, candid, a delight to converse with about topics. Harry educated me about many aspects of life I was not as aware of as he instinctively was such as the definition and impact of loneliness, the severity of the world hunger crisis, the art of poetry, folk music and story song writing.

Harry’s energy and never ceasing activism took on a life of its own. 30 years later the impetus involving Harry captivates new as well as existing generations.  The Harry Chapin Foundation embraces Harry’s legacy as do the ongoing efforts of the Chapin family and Long Island Cares (The Harry Chapin Food Bank).

Please read about and help support the proposed  Harry Chapin postage stamp, A new push for a Harry Chapin postage stamp!

For all his work promoting social justice…Harry Chapin deserves a stamp!

The proposed Harry Chapin postage stamp, unveiled on July 11, 2011

Sniper and other Love Songs – Harry Chapin – Daily Post 2011 #3

Harry Chapin after his concert at the Paramoun...
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Harry Chapin is one of our favorite all-time singer-songwriters.  We were privileged to see him perform eight times from 1974 through 1979 . His concerts were a rich mixture of fun, provocative thoughts, and pinch of balderdash.

Harry was always personable and graciously accommodated my requests for interviews several times. I’ll never forget the night he did two back to back concerts for the World Hunger Year charity at Fairfield University and afterwards came back to the college radio station to do a 45 minute interview with me over the air live on WVOF-FM 88.5.  What made this interview significant was that this was the station where I conducted my “Sunday Morning Sunshine” radio show. Harry’s single was the song I used to open every show 🙂

Harry had a special quality about him, he treated you like an equal by honoring what you knew, then he would add to your collective consciousness with his unique perspectives about music and life.

His second album Sniper and other Love Songs was released in October 1972. It was a change in music direction with its added intensity and depth from Harry and his band. His Top 40 hit, “Taxi” from his first album, Heads and Tales was riding the charts in 1972, so Sniper and other Love Songs was quite the contrast.

Sniper and other Love Songs is a mixed bag of story songs, hit singles and folk classics. “Sniper” is a gripping song that puts you in the mind of Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas  clock tower assassin. Harry’s portrayal of the sniper is eerily poetic as we find out why the sniper kills others. The voice in the sniper’s head that Harry sings about are the echoes of a mother ignoring and blaming her child for being born. The sniper’s last words, “I was, I am, and now I will be”, are an ironic triumph over a neglected life on earth which perhaps sheds the final insight into the psychology of the sniper, who is on a tortured quest for self-actualization.

Our other favorite two songs on this CD are “Better Place to Be“, which is a song that I urge you to listen to understand the aching of the human heart. “Circle” was a song Harry Chapin performed often as the encore at his concerts. We would join hands in the audience, chiming in with him and the band as their extended theater in the round.

I plan to write more about Harry Chapin on this blog, as I gather up my memories, so until that time 😉

Circle, Written By Harry Chapin, Lyrics copyright Harry Chapin Foundation

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

1. Sunday Morning Sunshine
2. Sniper
3. And The Baby Never Cries
4. Burning Herself
5. Barefoot Lady
6. Better Place To Be
7. Circle
8. Woman Child
9. Winter Song