I Heart Harry – Chapin

Harry Chapin at Veterans Memorial Auditorium

Harry Chapin at Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy 2013, Everyone –

So far things are going well in my world. I finished editing the manuscript for A Girl From the Hill, and I’m putting some final touches on it. I’ve gotten help from some great people and am feeling very grateful.

So why the frown? Not really a frown, just a little melancholy and reflective. On the way to work this morning, I had my favorite satellite 70s station on and Harry Chapin‘s Taxi came on. I haven’t heard this song in years. It always moved me. First as a girl growing up in the 70’s and not even understanding the story, but loving something about it anyway. Maybe his voice, how it changed throughout, or that hauntingly high singing during the bridge. I always wondered if it was a man or woman, and then I saw Chapin perform this song on television one night. A shaggy guy with thick spectacles and an angelic soprano crooned the most haunting lyrics I’ve ever heard. It freaked me out as an eight year old, and still does a little today as I watch this same performance on YouTube 40 years later.

Harry Chapin was an amazing story-teller whose life ended way too early. I felt compelled to look up the lyrics today and read them. His words create such vivid images, both ordinary and fantastic.

I have spent the last 30 minutes just staring at them, trying to imagine his life, what lead him to write this song down, his voice as he calmly narrated the story and then went wild with my favorite lyrics:

Oh, I’ve got something inside me,
To drive a princess blind.
There’s a wild man, wizard,
He’s hiding in me, illuminating my mind.
Oh, I’ve got something inside me,
Not what my life’s about,
 Cause I’ve been letting my outside tide me,
Over ’till my time, runs out.

That wild man wizard lives in many of us. A tortured but brilliant soul that, when expressed, creates such beauty, but that can also destroy just as easily. That clash of positive and negative energy that is our essence. I know I’m getting wiggy here. This song is old now, but the writing alone is amazing. Together with the music, his voice, his voices actually, it’s nothing short of brilliant. And the most tragic piece is that part of the bridge that I just learned the lyrics to today. It’s what’s got me in this trance now. Decades and a life lived later, and I finally get touched in the way that this dear dead poet intended all those years ago.

Baby’s so high that she’s skying,
Yes she’s flying, afraid to fall.
I’ll tell you why baby’s crying,
Cause she’s dying, aren’t we all.

Our choices, our inner conflicts and struggles, anxieties and fears. I am not worthy to hold his hat, I know. But I finally appreciate his art. Better late than never. I’m glad I took the trip.

Here are all of those beautiful lyrics, in case you’ve never read them or heard them even. And if you want to watch him like I did both today and 40 years ago you can tune in here:

Harry, keep the change. Always.

It was raining hard in ‘Frisco,
I needed one more fare to make my night.
A lady up ahead waved to flag me down,
She got in at the light.
Oh, where you going to, my lady blue,
It’s a shame you ruined your gown in the rain.
She just looked out the window, and said
“Sixteen Parkside Lane”.
Something about her was familiar
I could swear I’d seen her face before,
But she said, “I’m sure you’re mistaken”
And she didn’t say anything more.
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.”
It was somewhere in a fairy tale,
I used to take her home in my car.
We learned about love in the back of the Dodge,
The lesson hadn’t gone too far.
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 to find the sky.
Oh, I’ve got something inside me,
To drive a princess blind.
There’s a wild man, wizard,
He’s hiding in me, illuminating my mind.
Oh, I’ve got something inside me,
Not what my life’s about,
Cause I’ve been letting my outside tide me,
Over ’till my time, runs out.
Baby’s so high that she’s skying,
Yes she’s flying, afraid to fall.
I’ll tell you why baby’s crying,
Cause she’s dying, aren’t we all.
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.
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.
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.

 

9 thoughts on “I Heart Harry – Chapin

  1. Happy New Year Niece-In-Law,
    Thanks,Pat! I saw Harry at the old Rhode Island Auditorium back in the early ’70’s. He was one of three acts;I think the other two were Michael Murphy and Seals & Crofts. I think S & C were the nominal headliners but actually all were at about the same level of stardom. They even joked about it a bit-Murphy was supposed to go on first but Chapin had to be somewhere the next day so they switched. He put on a great set and came across as very down to earth. I remember he was always doing benefits-he was very much an activist against world hunger. Are you familiar with the sequel he did to “Taxi”?
    Thanks again,
    Mike (best to the other two too!)

    Like

    • Hi Mike-

      So cool that you got to see him! For some reason I remember one of my sisters going to that same show. Feel free to chime in here ladies.
      I am not familiar with the taxi sequel but that will now become my next research topic. What a writer and yes, what a humanitarian too. Not sure why this struck me so hard today, but glad i can’t shake it for now. And speaking of talented writers – thanks so much for the feedback!

      Hope you have a great 2013. And yes I’ll send your regards to big J and little J 🙂

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  2. Hi Pat, wish it was me that saw him at that concert, but not so. That one really does stay with you doesn’t it? So haunting, so sad. I remember feeling alone when I heard of his death. Alone? yet I obviously never knew him, how weird. thanks for bringing back the memory and the lyrics. Happiest of New Years to you, the big and the not so little, love Maree

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    • Thanks! Maybe one of the others saw him. Haunting is a good way to describe him and the song. It’s still with me as I sang it full blast in the shower this morning. :).
      Happy 13 to you and the critters too.

      Like

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