Harry Chapin

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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.

Harold Forster Chapin (7 December 194216 July 1981) was an American singer, songwriter, and social activist.


I feel that something's coming, and it's not just in the wind.
It's more than just tomorrow, it's more than where we've been,
It offers me a promise, it's telling me "Begin",
I know we're needing something worth believing in.
  • I spent a week there one afternoon.
    • About the city of Watertown, New York featured in "A Better Place to Be"
  • I never really drove a cab, but I do have a hack license in case of emergencies – like no money.
    • "Chapin Takes 'Taxi' Wherever He Can", Rolling Stone [1] (July 6, 1972)
  • The major thing I'm afraid of is being 65 and saying, 'Gee, I wish I had done this and that, and that.' I want to face old age knowing I've tried all I wanted to try.
    • "Chapin Takes 'Taxi' Wherever He Can", Rolling Stone [2] (July 6, 1972)
  • This commitment to end world hunger, and my music and story songs, are ways of dealing with the world as I see it. I'm playing 200 concerts per year-- half of them benefits-- all of them attempts at getting across the footlights to people I would enjoy spending time with in non-concert situations. And over the past 4 years of musical fun, millions of dollars have been raised for things I believe in. Telling stories of our time, building a lasting body of work, new songs, new records, new audiences, new challenges, and still that painfully exciting process of growth that can make one's life into a richly woven tapestry.
    • All My Life's a Circle, Autobiographical statement on a concert program, circa 1980 [3]

Song lyrics[edit]

Heads & Tales (1972)[edit]

  • It took a while, but she looked in the mirror,
    And she glanced at the license for my name.
    A smile seemed to come to her slowly,
    It was a sad smile, just the same.
    And she said, "How are you Harry?"
    I said, "How are you Sue?
    Through the too many miles
    and the too little smiles
    I still remember you."
  • There was not much more for us to talk about,
    Whatever we had once was gone.
    So I turned my cab into the driveway,
    Past the gate and the fine trimmed lawns.
    And she said we must get together,
    But I knew it'd never be arranged.
    And she handed me twenty dollars,
    For a two fifty fare, she said
    "Harry, keep the change."
    Well another man might have been angry,
    And another man might have been hurt,
    But another man never would have let her go...
    I stashed the bill in my shirt.
    • Taxi
  • And she walked away in silence,
    It's strange, how you never know,
    But we'd both gotten what we'd asked for,
    Such a long, long time ago.
    • Taxi
  • You see, she was gonna be an actress
    And I was gonna learn to fly.
    She took off to find the footlights,
    And I took off for the sky.
    And here, she's acting happy,
    Inside her handsome home.
    And me, I'm flying in my taxi,
    Taking tips, and getting stoned,
    I go flying so high, when I'm stoned.
    • Taxi

Sniper and Other Love Songs (1972)[edit]

  • He looks at the city where no one had known him.
    He looks at the sky where no one looks down.
    He looks at his life and what it has shown him.
    He looks for his shadow it cannot be found.
  • And the broad who served the whisky
    She was a big old friendly girl.
    And she tried to fight her empty nights
    By smilin' at the world.
  • I am the midnight watchman down at Miller's Tool and Die.
    And I watch the metal rusting, and I watch the time go by.
    A week ago at the diner I stopped to get a bite.
    And this here lovely lady she sat two seats from my right.
    And Lord, Lord, Lord she was alright.
    Oh she was so damned beautiful that she'd warm a winter's frost.
    But she was long past lonely, and well nigh unto lost.
    Now I'm not much of a mover, or a pick-em-up easy guy,
    But I decided to glide on over, and give her one good try.
    And Lord, Lord, Lord she was worth a try.
    • Better Place to Be
  • And it shamed me into silence, as quietly she said,
    "If you want me to come with you, then that's all right with me.
    Cause I know I'm going nowhere, and anywhere's a better place to be.
    Anywhere's a better place to be."
    • Better Place to Be
  • The moonlight shown upon her as she lay back in my bed.
    It was the kind of scene I only had imagined in my head.
    I just could not believe it, to think that she was real.
    And as I tried to tell her she said "Shhh.. I know just how you feel.
    And if you want to come here with me, then that's all right with me.
    'Cause I've been oh so lonely, lovin' someone is a better way to be.
    anywhere's a better way to be."
    • Better Place to Be
  • The waitress took a bar rag, and she wiped it across her eyes.
    And as she spoke her voice came out as something like a sigh.
    She said "I wish that I was beautiful, or that you were halfway blind.
    And I wish I weren't so dog-gone fat, I wish that you were mine.
    And I wish that you'd come with me, when I leave for home.
    For we both know all about loneliness, and livin' all alone."
    • Better Place to Be
  • All my life's a circle;
    Sunrise and sundown;
    Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
    Till the daybreak comes around.
    • Circle
  • All my life's a circle;
    But I can't tell you why;
    Season's spinning round again;
    The years keep rollin' by.
    • Circle
  • No straight lines make up my life;
    And all my roads have bends;
    There's no clear-cut beginnings;
    And so far no dead-ends.
    • Circle
  • I found you a thousand times;
    I guess you done the same;
    But then we lose each other;
    It's like a children's game;
    As I find you here again;
    A thought runs through my mind;
    Our love is like a circle;
    Let's go 'round one more time.
    • Circle

Short Stories (1974)[edit]

  • Short stories
    that's all it's ever been
    Don't you worry 'bout the ending
    Babe, before we begin
    I have seen the sun
    That's behind the rain
    I have felt the joy
    That's behind the pain.
    • Short Stories
  • You know I need a dream
    Like I need my breath
    We need to take the life
    Before we get the death
    You know I need your love
    Like I need the light
    Yes I need the chance
    Can it be tonight?
    • Short Stories
  • I am the morning DJ... At W.O.L.D.
    Playin' all the hits for you... Wherever you may be.
    The bright good morning voice... Who is heard, but never seen!
    Feelin' all of 45.... Goin' on 15.
  • Sometimes I get this crazy dream
    And I just take off in my car
    But you can travel on ten thousand miles
    And still stay where you are.
    • W*O*L*D
  • 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.
  • Mr. Martin Tanner, a baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards. His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it consistently interesting.
    Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.
    • Mr. Tanner

Verities & Balderdash (1974)[edit]

  • My child arrived just the other day,
    He came to the world in the usual way.
    But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
    He learned to walk while I was away.
    And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
    He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
    You know I'm gonna be like you."
  • And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
    Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
    "When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
    But we'll get together then.
    You know we'll have a good time then."
    • Cat's in the Cradle
  • I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
    I called him up just the other day.
    I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
    He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
    You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's have the flu,
    But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
    It's been sure nice talking to you."
    And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
    He'd grown up just like me.
    My boy was just like me.
    • Cat's in the Cradle
  • I come fresh from the street,
    fast on my feet, kind a lean and lazy;
    not much meat on my bones, and a whole lot alone,
    and more than a little bit crazy.
    The old six string was all I had
    to keep my belly still,
    and for each full hour lesson I gave
    I got a crisp ten dollar bill.
    • I Wanna Learn a Love Song
  • She was married for seven years
    to a concrete castle king.
    She said she wanted to learn to play the guitar
    and to hear her children sing.
    So I'd show up about once a week
    in my faded tight-legged jeans
    with a backlog full of hobo stories
    and dilapidated dreams.
    • I Wanna Learn a Love Song
  • She said, "I wanna learn a love song full of happy things."
    She said, "I wanna learn a love song; won't you let me hear you sing?"
    She said, "I wanna learn a love song, I wanna hear you play."
    She said, "I wanna learn a love song before you go away."
    • I Wanna Learn a Love Song
  • Oh, he was the sun burning bright and brittle
    And she was the moon shining back his light a little
    He was a shooting star
    She was softer and more slowly
    He could not make things possible
    But, she could make them holy.
    • Shooting Star
  • He was dancing to some music
    No one else had ever heard
    He'd speak in unknown languages
    She would translate every word
    And then when the world was laughing
    At his castles in the sky
    She'd hold him in her body
    Till he once again could fly.
    • Shooting Star
  • He was a young driver,
    just out on his second job.
    And he was carrying the next day's pasty fruits
    for everyone in that coal-scarred city
    where children play without despair
    in backyard slag-piles and folks manage to eat each day
    about thirty thousand pounds of bananas...
  • He was picking speed as the city spread its twinkling lights below him.
    But he paid no heed as the shivering thoughts of the nights
    delights went through him.
    His foot nudged the brakes to slow him down.
    But the pedal floored easy without a sound.
    He said "Christ!"
    It was funny how he had named the only man who could save him now.
    He was trapped inside a dead-end hellslide,
    riding on his fear-hunched back
    was every one of those yellow green
    I'm telling you thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    • 30,000 Pounds of Bananas
  • And he said "God, make it a dream!"
    as he rode his last ride down.
    And he sideswiped nineteen neat parked cars,
    clipped off thirteen telephone poles,
    hit two houses, bruised eight trees,
    and Blue-Crossed seven people.
    it was then he lost his head,
    not to mention an arm or two before he stopped.
    • 30,000 Pounds of Bananas
  • You know the man who told me about it on the bus,
    as it went up the hill out of Scranton, Pennsylvania,
    he shrugged his shoulders, he shook his head,
    and he said (and this is exactly what he said)
    "Boy that sure must've been something.
    Just imagine thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of mashed bananas.
    Of bananas. Just bananas. Thirty thousand pounds.
    of Bananas—not no driver now. Just bananas!"
    • 30,000 Pounds of Bananas
  • She sings the songs without words
    Songs that sailors, and blind men, and beggars have heard
    She knows more of love than the poets can say
    And her eyes are for something that won't go away.
    • She Sings Songs Without Words
  • It was the town that made America famous.
    The churches full and the kids all gone to hell.
    Six traffic lights and seven cops and all the streets kept clean.
    The supermarket and the drug store and the bars all doing well.
    • What Made America Famous?
  • Something's burning somewhere. Does anybody care?
    • What Made America Famous?
  • We were the kids that made America famous.
    The kind of kids that long since drove our parents to dispair.
    We were lazy long hairs dropping out, lost confused, and copping out.
    Convinced our futures were in doubt and trying not to care.
    • What Made America Famous?
  • I went to sleep with the hope that made America famous.
    I had the kind of a dream that maybe they're still trying to teach in school.
    Of the America that made America famous...and
    Of the people who just might understand
    That how together yes we can
    Create a country better than
    The one we have made of this land,
    We have a choice to make each man
    who dares to dream, reaching out his hand
    A prophet or just a crazy God damn
    Dreamer of a fool.
    • What Made America Famous?
  • There's a vacancy, won't you come to me
    And fill my empty spaces
    I'm a motel man in a promised land
    That's filled with empty faces
    So won't you bring your sorrows bring your dreams,
    It's a place for you to be
    There's no more tomorrow or that's how it seems
    Won't you come to me? I've got a vacancy
    • Vacancy
  • The very day I purchased it,
    I christened my guitar
    as my monophonic symphony,
    six string orchestra.
    • Six String Orchestra
  • I'd play at all the talent nights,
    I'd finish, they'd applaud.
    Some called it muffled laughter,
    I just figured they were odd.
    So I went up for an encore,
    but they screamed they'd had enough.
    Or maybe I just need a group
    to help me do my stuff.
    • Six String Orchestra
  • And so I'd dream a bass will join me,
    and fill the bottom in. And maybe now some lead guitar
    so it would not sound so thin.
    I need some drums to set the beat
    and help me keep in time.
    And way back in the distance,
    some strings would sound so fine.
    • Six String Orchestra
  • And we would play together,
    like fine musicians should,
    And it would sound like music,
    and the music would sound good.
    But in real life I'm stuck with
    that same old formula,
    me and my monophonic symphony,
    six string orchestra.
    • Six String Orchestra

Portrait Gallery (1975)[edit]

  • "The rock is gonna fall on us," he stood and told the class
    The professor put his chalk down and peered out through his glasses
    But he went on and said; "I've seen it, high up on the hill
    If it doesn't fall this year then very soon it will!"
    • The Rock
  • We've more important studies than your fantasies and fears
    You know that rock's been perched up there for a hundred thousand years.
    • The Rock
  • He went up on the mountain beside the giant stone
    They knew he was insane so they left him alone
    He'd given up enlisting help for there was no one else
    He spent his days devising ways to stop the rock himself
    One night while he was working building braces on the ledge
    The ground began to rumble the rock trembled on the edge.
    • The Rock
  • But high up on the mountain
    When the wind is hitting it
    If you're watching very closely
    The rock slips a little bit...
    • The Rock

On the Road to Kingdom Come (1976)[edit]

  • The Mayor of Candor lied
    When he offered me his only daughter
    The Mayor of Candor tried
    To take her off across the water
    What a thing to do to a young man in love
    What a thing to do to your daughter.
  • I was quite surprised to find out all the places that he knew
    And so I asked the townfolk if his stories were true
    They said— Old John was born here, he's lived here all his life
    He's never had a woman, let alone a wife.
    And very soon you'll find out as you check around
    That no one named Corey's ever lived in this town
    So I chided the old man 'bout the truth that I had heard
    He smiled and said— Reality is only just a word.
  • They put the cold dirt over him and left me on my own
    And when at last I looked up I saw I was not alone
    So I said— If you're a relative, he had a peaceful end.
    She said— My name is Corey— you can say I'm just a friend.
    • Corey's Coming
  • Corey's coming, no more sad stories coming
    My midnight-moonlight-morning-glory's coming aren't you girl?
    And like I told you, when she holds you
    She enfolds you in her world.
    • Corey's Coming

Dance Band on the Titanic (1977)[edit]

  • I'm in the Dance Band on the Titanic
    Singing "Nearer my God to thee"
    and the icebergs on the starboard bow
    Won't you dance with me?
    • Dance Band On the Titanic
  • You see, I have no real complaints of how you've left your past behind
    I guess what gets me worried is you've erased him from your mind.
    • I Wonder What Happened to Him
  • You see, dream-lover of a lady, what shakes me to the core
    Is the thought as you caress me, you've done this all before
    I think about the future with me out and others in
    Will I, too, have disappeared like I've never ever been?
    • I Wonder What Happened to Him
  • Strum your guitar sing it kid
    Just write about your feelings
    not the things you never did
    Inexperience, it once had cursed me
    But your youth is no handicap
    it's what makes you thirsty
    • There Only Was One Choice
  • When I started this song I was still thirty-three
    The age that Mozart died and sweet Jesus was set free
    Keats and Shelley too soon finished, Charley Parker would be
    And I fantasized some tragedy'd be soon curtailing me
    Well just today I had my birthday
    I made it thirty-four
    Mere mortal, not immortal, not star-crossed anymore
    I've got this problem with my aging I no longer can ignore
    A tame and toothless tabby can't produce a lion's roar.
    • There Only Was One Choice
  • Hello my Country
    I once came to tell everyone your story
    Your passion was my poetry
    And your past my most potent glory
    Your promise was my prayer
    Your hypocrisy my nightmare
    And your problems fill my present
    Are we both going somewhere?
    • There Only Was One Choice
  • Step right up young lady
    Your two hundred birthdays make you old if not senile
    And we see the symptoms there in your rigor mortis smile
    With your old folks eating dog food and your children eating paint
    While the pirates own the flag and sell us sermons on restraint.
    • There Only Was One Choice
  • And while blood's the only language that your deaf old ears can hear
    And still you will not answer with that message coming clear
    Does it mean there's no more ripples in your tired old glory stream
    And the buzzards own the carcass of your dream?
    • There Only Was One Choice
  • Good dreams don't come cheap
    You've got to pay for them.
    • There Only Was One Choice

Living Room Suite (1978)[edit]

  • Oh God they got you gun shy
    You know your skin's as cold as ice
    Your eyes are double filtered babe
    You're so afraid to be nice
    There's no way you're ready
    To let your defenses down
    Though I won't come on heavy
    There is a lesson that I've found.
    • If You Want to Feel
  • If you try to look
    But you don't touch
    Then you won't touch
    But you'll never feel
    And if you don't feel
    You'll never cry
    And if you don't cry
    Then you'll never heal.
    • If You Want to Feel
  • There are lessons to life
    That the lovers got to learn
    There are corners out there
    You know they're waitin' somewhere
    And you've got to be prepared to turn
    There are callouses that come
    That the lovers got to earn
    In the years of your youth
    You can't be fire proof
    You know you've got to get burned.
    • If You Want to Feel
  • Now if a man tried
    To take his time on Earth
    And prove before he died
    What one man's life could be worth,
    Well I wonder what would happen to this world.
    • I Wonder What Would Happen to this World
  • And if a woman
    She used a life line
    As something more than
    Some man's servant mother wife time
    Well I wonder what would happen to this world.
    • I Wonder What Would Happen to this World
  • And if our future
    Lies on the final line
    Are we brave enough
    To see the signals and the signs?
    • I Wonder What Would Happen to this World
  • If we say that no one's out there
    And we say we're goin' nowhere
    And we avoid the question
    Is this all that it means?
    • I Wonder What Would Happen to this World
  • 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.
    • I Wonder What Would Happen to this World
  • And I know you're frightened
    By my laughter
    But you're not afraid
    To hold my pain
    You see I'm never sure
    Just what you're after, Babe
    But it seems you only love me
    When it rains.
    How come you only love me when it rains?
    • It Seems You Only Love Me When It Rains
  • Why did the little girls grow crippled
    While the little boys grow strong
    The boys allowed to come of age
    The girls just came along
    The girls were told sing harmonies
    The boys could all sing songs
    That's why little girls grew crippled
    While little boys grew strong.
    • Why Do Little Girls?
  • Why were the little girls all frightened
    To be just what they are
    The boys were told to ask themselves
    How high how far
    The girls were told to reach the shelves
    While the boys were reaching stars
    That's why little girls were frightened
    To be just what they are.
    • Why Do Little Girls?
  • The little boy went first day of school
    He got some crayons and started to draw
    He put colors all over the paper
    For colors was what he saw
    And the teacher said.. "What you doin' young man?"
    "I'm paintin' flowers" he said
    She said... "It's not the time for art young man
    And anyway flowers are green and red
    There's a time for everything young man
    And a way it should be done
    You've got to show concern for everyone else
    For you're not the only one."
  • And she said...
    "Flowers are red young man
    Green leaves are green
    There's no need to see flowers any other way
    Than they way they always have been seen."
    • Flowers are Red
  • But the little boy said...
    "There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flowers and I see every one."
    • Flowers are Red
  • But there still must be a way to have our children say...
    "There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flower and I see every one." (Live version)
    • Flowers are Red
  • Somebody said...We got to find the words
    Got to, got to be an answer there
    Somebody said that...You never get heard
    'Cause nobody really cares.
    • Somebody Said
  • Somebody said...Where are the dreamers
    Somebody said...Dead
    Somebody said...Here comes the holy rollers
    Tryin' to sell us all the screamers instead.
    • Somebody Said

Sequel (1981)[edit]

Sequel to Taxi

  • You see, ten years ago it was the front seat
    Drivin' stoned and feelin' no pain.
    Now here I am straight and sittin' in the back
    Hitting Sixteen Parkside Lane.
    • Sequel
  • And the look on her face as she opened the door
    Was like an old joke told by a friend.
    It'd taken ten more years but she'd found her smile
    And I watched the corners start to bend.
    • Sequel
  • She said I've heard you flying high on my radio
    I answered "It's not all it seems"
    That's when she laughed and she said, "It's better sometimes
    When we don't get to touch our dreams."
    • Sequel
  • That's when I asked her where was that actress
    She said "That was somebody else"
    And then I asked her why she looked so happy now
    She said "I finally like myself, at last I like myself."
    • Sequel
  • I guess it's a sequel to our story
    From the journey 'tween heaven and hell
    With half the time thinking of what might have been
    and half thinkin' just as well.
    I guess only time will tell.
    • Sequel
  • And the wind will whip your tousled hair,
    The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,
    Great tales of love and strife.
    And somewhere on your path to glory
    You will write your story of a life.
    • Story of a Life
  • And all the trips you know you missed
    And all the lips you never kissed
    Cut through you like a knife.
    And now you see stretched out before thee
    Just another story of a life.
    • Story of a Life
  • Now sometimes words can serve me well
    Sometimes words can go to hell
    For all that they do.
    And for every dream that took me high
    There's been a dream that's passed me by.
    I know it's so true
    And I can see it clear out to the end
    And I'll whisper to her now again
    Because she shared my life.
    For more than all the ghosts of glory
    She makes up the story,
    She's the only story
    Of my life.
    • Story of a Life
  • Remember when the music
    Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
    And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
    For we believed in things, and so we'd sing.
    • Remember When the Music
  • Oh all the times I've listened, and all the times I've heard
    All the melodies I'm missing, and all the magic words,
    And all those potent voices, and the choices we had then,
    How I'd love to find we had that kind of choice again.
    • Remember When the Music
  • And I feel that something's coming, and it's not just in the wind.
    It's more than just tomorrow, it's more than where we've been,
    It offers me a promise, it's telling me "Begin",
    I know we're needing something worth believing in.
    • Remember When the Music

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