An Unsung, Singing Hero (a Tribute)

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate Associates in the Toronto Area


Yesterday, Gary Woltal posted a beautiful blog "We are the Children of ActiveRain"  If you didn't get a chance to enjoy it, you should >>  (Thanks, Gary!)

In that post, Gary imbedded the video of the "We Are The World" recording session and it made me think again of Harry.  (No, Harry isn't in the video, at least not in the flesh.)

Harry Chapin was (is) one of my life's greatest heroes.  Many may remember him for his minor chart hits "Cats in the Cradle" and "Taxi", but too few people know him for his true passion and life's work. Harry lived to feed the world in the truest sense, and ultimately was responsible for USA for Africa and Live Aid.

Harry was, and still today is to my knowledge, the only private citizen in the United States of America to personally push a Bill through the House of Representatives and Congress to eventually be signed by a President.  That Bill was for the International Year of Hunger, signed by President Jimmy Carter.

Harry had a belief that led him to donate most of his money that he raised from his concerts towards eliminating world hunger, eventually creating his own foundation which still carries on his work today.

Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite artists. One of the greatest Springsteen recordings in my collection is a live tribute to Harry by The Boss, in which he sings Harry's song "Remember When the Music" and he tells of his meeting Harry at various places and of Harry's dedication, and often overwhelming passion:

"But I think Harry instinctively knew that it was going to take a lot more than just love to survive. That it was going to take a strong sense of purpose - a duty, and a good clear eye on the dirty ways of the world."

"So in keeping his promise to himself, he reminds us of our promise to ourselves and that tonight, along side Harry, it's that promise that his spirit would have us honor and remember and recommit to."

"So do something... and may his song be sung" - Bruce Springsteen 1987

Harry always said of his choice to preform concerts for charity, "Gee, I play one night for me and one night for the other guy." He died in a car accident on his way to one of those charity concerts. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and is acknowledged as being instrumental in the establishment of the President's Commission on World Hunger.

The connection to USA for Africa and Live Aid? His manager later became Bob Geldof's.

Oh, and if you want to know the real Harry Chapin and his wit and his music, my "greatest album ever recorded' is Harry Chapin's "Greatest Stories - Live".

 "I Wonder What Would Happen to This World" -- Harry Chapin

Oh if a man tried

To Take his time on Earth

And prove before he died

What one man' life could be worth

I wonder what what would happen

To this world?


I think you showed me, Harry! God Bless You!


Comments (21)

Steven Wright
Home Real Estate - Aurora, CO
CRS - Home Real Estate - 720-989-5283

Nice post, I remember the song Cat in the cradle.

Jan 24, 2009 03:13 PM
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Rick, great writeup on Harry Chapin. He is one of my favorites and I didn't know all this background on him. Thanks for mentioning me. Cats In The Cradle is always a tremendous yet scary song. Definitely makes you think about time rushing on.

Jan 24, 2009 03:25 PM
Rick Sergison
Keller Williams Real Estate Associates in the Toronto Area - Toronto, ON

Jon - Glad you're here! (or there, as I am in Canada)

Steve - Thanks for stopping by and for you rcomment.

Gary - Thanks for the inspiration.  If you like Cat's in the Cradle, you will have to get "Greatest Stories Live" and listen to "WOLD", "A Better Place To Be" and my personal favorite, "Mr. Tanner".  The song "I Wanna Learn a Love Song" is the story of how he met his wife.

Jan 24, 2009 03:31 PM
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

Haven't followed the link yet, but that's next on my agenda. I just wanted to leave a comment so you'd know I had been here =P   If you've ever looked at how many people view your posts, you'll notice that a lot more people read them, than you'd ever know, because they don't leave comments. So this is my comment! LOL!

Jan 24, 2009 03:35 PM
Rick Sergison
Keller Williams Real Estate Associates in the Toronto Area - Toronto, ON

Lisa - Thank you for dropping by and for your comment!  It's amazing how many are just dancing and "lurking" in the rain!

Jan 24, 2009 03:39 PM
Tony & Darcy Cannon
Aubrey and Associates Realty - Layton, UT
The C Team

Rick, that is a wonderful tribute, to a man whose goodness was far greater than we knew!

Jan 24, 2009 04:52 PM
Terri Hattaway
Real Estate and Financial Services - Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Rick, this is a lovely post.  When I was growing up, my father often said that in this world there are givers and there are takers.  Harry Chapin was not only a giver, he was a gift!  Thank you for this tribute.

p.s. I bet you are also a James Taylor fan?

Jan 25, 2009 08:14 AM
Rick Sergison
Keller Williams Real Estate Associates in the Toronto Area - Toronto, ON

Tony and Darcy - Thank you for the kind comment.  Yes, we don't hear often enough about the "quiet" heroes of our world.  Everyone seems to want to focus on the evil villians.  thanks for dropping by.

Terri - Yes, I think JT has written a lot of great music, Fire and Rain and You've Got a Friend being my JT favs.  Thanks for commenting.

Jan 25, 2009 01:21 PM
Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance - Jonesborough, TN
Retired and loving life

Hi Rick-I remember the song "Cat's in the Cradle" and "Taxi" but I didn't know he was involved in the Aid for Africa or how he died. Thanks for a great post. :-)

Jan 25, 2009 01:55 PM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

Rick, Harry was a great artist and I loved his music and still do. Few know of his contribution to our world and humanity... Thanks for the reminder!

Jan 25, 2009 05:09 PM
Emelyn Morris-Sayre

Beautiful....I remember his music well.

Jan 26, 2009 12:43 PM
Rebecca Levinson, Real Estate Marketing and Online Advertising Consultant
Real Skillz-Clear Marketing for Your Real Estate Vision - Lake Geneva, WI


What a nice tribute.  His story is certainly intriguing and I loved to hear the contributions of this man.  I must admit I did not know of him before your post but will go look him up on YouTube now.

O.K I am back.  Sheepishly admitting I know the songs but not the artist.

Jan 27, 2009 06:29 AM
Randy DeLaMare
Realtypath LLC - Salt Lake City, UT
Helping friends Realize their Real Estate Dreams


Great to know this information. Like many others here I enjoyed his music but had no idea all he has done for humanity. It is always encouraging to hear about the good some people do. There are so many spoiled super stars out there, it is nice to hear this kind of posts. Thanks

Jan 28, 2009 07:16 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Hey, Rick.

I love your post but I simply cannot agree that "Cat's in the Cradle" was a "minor hit" unless you're talking about Canadian charts, of which I will admit I know nothing. Here in America, though, "Cat's in the Cradle" hit #1 and spent 19 weeks in the Bilboard Hot 100. His other hit songs could be considered minor hits, and some would put him in with the "One Hit Wonders" because of the disparity of his #1 hit and his next-highest hits, "Sequel," which peaked at #23, and "Taxi," which peaked at #24.

Sadly, Harry was killed in a car accident on July 16, 1981, on his way to one of his many hunger benefit concerts.

Jan 30, 2009 01:23 PM
Rick Sergison
Keller Williams Real Estate Associates in the Toronto Area - Toronto, ON

Hi Russel!

Thanks for dropping by and your input! "Cats in the Cradle" topped out at #3 here and only for one week.  I am glad he received more recognition there.  He certainly deserved it. (My favs of his are "Mr Tanner", "A Better Place To Be" and "WOLD" from "Greatest Stories Live". "Dance Band on the Titanic" and "Flowers are Red" are also great tunes. "I Wanna Learn a Love Song" is the actual story of how he met his wife.  

I was aware that he died in a car accident on his way to another charity gig.  It is believed that he may have had a heart attack which caused the accident.  Not too surprising from the schedule he kept.  It is said that he could do a concert until late, jump on a plane overnight to Washington D.C. to lobby Senators and Congressmen all day and then fly back and do another concert the very next evening.  Harry was DRIVEN to eliminate hunger in this world.

Jan 30, 2009 02:16 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Hey, Rick.

I still would not consider a #3 hit to be "minor."

I see this is also your most recent post. Hope all is well with you and yours and that you'll soon be back to Play in the Rain with us.

Feb 08, 2009 07:44 AM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Hey, Rick.

I'm back to visit again but you're still not here. We miss you!

May 02, 2009 10:23 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Hey, Rick -- I'm back yet again to visit and you're still nowhere to be found. We still miss you.

Jul 10, 2009 04:24 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Hey, Rick -- Are you ever going to come Play in the Rain with us again and do some blog posts? We miss you.

Oct 02, 2009 01:31 PM
Sheldon Neal
Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited - Maywood, NJ
That British Agent Bergen County NJ

Hey Rick ! Just stopping by to wish you a very Happy New Year, and hope to see you back in the Rain in 2010 :o)

Cheers !!

Dec 30, 2009 07:58 AM