Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Time I "Met" Harry Chapin

When I was young I thought I was "in love" with a girl named KayeAnne. I wasn't. I did not know what love was until I met Wanda, my wife.

However, that is not the point. :)  I took KayeAnne to a concert. She had little to no respect for me but I found myself in relationships like that for years. Perhaps that is somehow representative of who I was... I don't know.... but that is not the point :) ... we were both to young for the romantic love that we or at least I pretended to have.

KayeAnne loved Harry Chapin and Billy Joel... though I never met Billy. :)  I really did not appreciate Harry Chapin until after that night. I was musically snobby.

Harry Chapin's concert was in Birmingham. He looked sort of like this:

except without the x and copyright stuff this photographer put on Chapin's picture. Harry was not into selling things really. He was more into music and charity. He probably looked a lot like this next photo from our seats:

only even smaller... yep, that looks more like how he looked that night. 

You know, I think I was a bit jealous of my girlfriend's love for him. But not Billy Joel. She was just like a woman to him. I remember distinctly disliking the amulet around Harry's neck... silly memories brought to me by these pictures. It must have been jealousy. I told you I was not ready for love.

After the show he had set up some kind of charity thing where people could stand in line and meet him right beside a donation jar for his charity. I don't remember what charity it was,,, my mind was elsewhere... but I do remember him talking about how important it was... and trying various cute tricks to get people to donate more money that met him. 

I watched a documentary on Greenwich village the other day and passing around the hat was a common thing, yet usually to support the musician rather than charity. Musicians did not "sell out" in the village so they needed the bread. Harry Chapin was a good man with true Greenwich Village values and a charitable streak that clearly placed him in the Greenwich crowd in terms of his values. Harry Chapin had not sold out despite his fame.

From Wikipedia: 
Chapin's social causes at times caused friction among his band members. Chapin donated an estimated third of his paid concerts to charitable causes, often performing alone with his guitar to reduce costs. Mike Rendine accompanied him on bass throughout 1979.
Yep that was the year I, oh yeah, and Kaye, saw him. So I'll guess he had minimal accompaniment. He was, I do remember, amazing. I was young so I took "amazing" for granted.

After the concert... I had to use the bathroom so very bad. Somehow this kept Kaye from getting a good place in line to see Harry. Oh, frigging hell, everything was my fault, even having a close to bursting bladder that I had withstood for Kaye's sake during the concert. Yep... dumb not to go earlier... she saw that.

The line was incredibly long, we were at the end, and Chapin was spending a bit of time with each person. I daresay they all "met" Harry too... but something pretty amazing happened next as we were just about up to his makeshift table. The lights went out... not for a few minutes but for a while. Well, I was certainly going to be blamed for this by Kaye... I felt sick inside... but what happened next was so uniquely awesome. Harry would not leave until he had met everyone in line in the light. So we all, probably 5 or 6 people, stood there in the dark and chatted with Harry Chapin for what seemed like an eternity. People in charge of the arena wanted him to leave... no doubt turned off the lights as well... but Harry would not budge until he had met us all IN THE LIGHT. It was real honest conversation about his music and life. He asked us about ourselves as well.

Soon the lights came on and it really felt like we knew Harry Chapin by that time as we shook his hand. I never got credit for my fortuitously weak bladder. Really, Kaye was not good for me at all. There are some people who are good for you and some people who are not. It took decades to learn that.

Harry Chapin was good for me. I remember my frustrations with life floating away if only for a short time. His affect on me was huge. He was just an ordinary man who wrote and performed music. He presented himself humbly and well... it was inspiring to think that this great man on stage was just like us.

His was extraordinary music. And it was not for himself but for us, for others. I can think of performers that are probably somewhat that way... but Harry Chapin personified it.

I have tried to have the same ambitions in my life, to live my life for others. And you always come across some people who want to close down your venue or to be upset with you for things that appear to be weakness but are actually simply ordinary human frailties, natural problems or just normal limitations, which can be criticized, accepted, or even loved.

Sometimes you come across people like Harry Chapin... or my wife Wanda. Stick with those people... and emulate them.

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