Harry Chapin continued No-one could ever accuse Harry of laziness. He produced at least one record a year during the Seventies. Portrait Gallery was a bit dull compared to his better records. He begun a return to form with The Road to Kingdom Come (1976). Most of the songs are very good – ;The Mayor of Candor Lied’ and ‘Corey’s Coming’ are the highlights. A quiter album this time. The following year he released a double album Dance Band On The Titanic. This was a great return to form, some great songs and a new passion in his voice – maybe it should have been edited down to a single album, but I suppose he was on a songwriting spree – and just wanted to get them all down on vinyl (as it was in those days). Best songs ‘Country Dreams’, ‘Bluesman’ and ‘Manhood’. The record ends with a person valediction ‘There really was only one choice’, explaining his need to write and sing and play music in an attempt to make the world a better place. He was very very busy, writing, recording, playing many charity gigs, organizing committees to fight hunger and being a father and husband. His record company ‘Elektra’ didn’t seem to promote his records at all. Harry really didn’t fit in to their hip rockster style – he was a bit old-fashioned, a bit passe – despite the fact that his lowest selling album still notched up 250,000 units. Which would be amazing for any artist today. In 1978 he released his eighth album of original songs in just 6 years. Living Room Suite is another classic, if slightly mellower record. Great opener ‘Dancin Boy’ about his son, ‘Poor Damned Fool’ and ‘Jenny’ are very good too – but really there isn’t a poor song here. Amazingly he was then dropped by Elektra. He had sold about 6 million albums and had a number one single (most of his other singles charted well also), But there you go.
Harry was adrift with no contract. Undaunted he carried on touring and organizing hunger marches and writing. He collected almost a million dollars for charity every year. He got a one album deal with a new label and released Sequel in 1980. The title song is a conclusion of almost his first song ‘Taxi’, but the record also includes many other fine songs – ‘Story of a Life’ is particularly good.
But ironically Harry’s time really was up. He died in a car crash in early ’81. He had spent nearly all his money on charities and supporting his extended family. But his legend lived on, at least for a while – and occasionally when I mention his name, I get a smile of recognition. Truly a wonderful Artist and by all accounts a wonderful man. There was one extra album – The Last Protest Singer – from demos already in the can. It is okay, but understandably not his very best. I also, of course have his Greatest Hits and a double live album.