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Harry Chapin Biography

Home > Music > C > Chapin, Harry > Biography

Born: 1942/12/07
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Died: 1981/07/16
Years Active: 1964 – 1981
Genres: Folk Rock, Folk

Harry Chapin was born on December 7, 1942 in New York and was a singer and songwriter best known for the international hit song, “Cat's in the Cradle.” Despite being a successful musician, Chapin was also a dedicated humanitarian who fought passionately around issues of world hunger. In 1987 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work. Chapin's father was a musician and this was his first introduction to music; when his parents divorced, his father went on the road playing in Big Bands and Chapin saw less of him. Despite his father's absence, Chapin's love for music remained and he sang in the Brooklyn Boys Choir as a child. Chapin and his brothers decided to form their own band when all three boys were teenagers and they began performing locally around New York, with their father occasionally joining them on drums.

Once Chapin had graduated from college he decided to focus on music as a career and got another band together, which consisted of John Wallace, Tim Scott and Ron Palmer. The band's debut album, “Heads & Tales” arrived in 1972 and produced the hit single, “Taxi,” which peaked at #24 on the U.S Singles Chat. Despite the success of Chapin's album and a hit single on his hand, Chapin was surrounded by controversy as two record labels publicly fought over whom Chapin had promised to sign with. He eventually signed with Elektra Records. Chapin's follow-up, “Sniper and Other Love Songs” emerged in 1972 and was less successful than his debut album. His third offering, 1973’s “Short Stories,” was moderately successful, and by the time he released his fourth studio album, “Verities & Balderdash” in 1974 he was back on track with his massive international hit single, “Cat's in the Cradle.” The album became such a huge success based on the single, the only #1 single Chapin would ever attain. He became a household name overnight. Around this time Chapin also tried his hand at writing Broadway musicals: “The Night That Made America Famous,” which earned him two Tony Awards, and “Cotton Patch Gospel,” which he had some success with.

When Chapin's nine album deal was up with Elektra, who had merged with Asylum Records at this time, under the control of David Geffen, the label chose not to renew his contract. Chapin went on to sign with Boardwalk Records, who put out his final studio album, “Sequel” in 1980. A year later in 1981 tragedy struck when Chapin's life was cut short and he was killed in a car accident