Harry (Forster) Chapin, born on December 7, 1942, was one of America’s popular troubadours. This singer-songwriter spun musical missives about missed opportunities, the everyman, life’s hypocrisies and heavy ironies. He was most known for his folk music including his two major hits “Cat’s in the Cradle” and “Taxi”.
Both big hits were in what Chapin himself called “story song” style which was essentially a narrative form of songwriting much like another, older genre called talking blues. While Chapin never quite achieved the widespread commercial success of some of his contemporaries, he often gave others the impression he wasn’t in it for the money anyway. In fact, Chapin was generally a dedicated humanitarian who actually pioneered the concept of the benefit concert. Indeed, half of his shows were for charities.
His main cause was to end world hunger. In fact, Chapin was a key figure in the formation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977. On July 16th, 1981, while Chapin was driving near Exit 40 on the Long Island Expressway, Chapin (possibly due to a medical emergency such as a heart attack) turned on his emergency flashers, slowed his vehicle and was attempting to change lanes and pull over when he was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer rig.
The collision set his Volkswagen Rabbit on fire. The truck driver and a witness were able to cut him free from his seatbelt and get free Chapin from the flaming wreckage to safety. Unfortunately, although he was reportedly taken by police ‘copter to a hospital where ten doctors tried to revive him, he would be officially pronounced dead on July 17th, 1981.
Although many sources initially reported that Chapin died of his burns and/or other injuries incurred in the collision, his actual burns were superficial and the injuries may not have actually been life-threatening. Chapin actually succumbed to a heart attack and it is generally believed that this was what caused him to try to get off to the side of the highway. Chapin was 38.
He was buried at Huntington Rural Cemetery in Huntington, New York. People interested in visiting his grave will find the cemetery in Huntington off of Route 110. It’s approximately five miles away from the Northern State parkway.
Once one enters the cemetery property, he/she simply bears to the right at the office, goes straight through the four corners and then turns left up the hill. One next takes the next two lefts and stops where the road bears to the right. To the right is Section 6L.
Here is Chapin’s grave. It’s marked with a big boulder in the middle of the section. The rock is actually from Chapin’s childhood home where he sat upon it while learning how to play guitar. In 1987 Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for all of his humanitarian work. To this day the Harry Chapin Foundation continues to raise millions of dollars for charity. Harry Chapin was not forgotten in the end.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.