There was no one like Harry Chapin. This is from March 24, 2013.
I've had Harry Chapin songs on my mind lately. Who knows why? On my way to Bible study Wednesday, as I was listening to Bobbie Sue on some country station, it occurred to me that the worst song I ever heard was Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys. So what do you think they were playing as I drove to Bible study tonight? You guessed it- Elvira. (Really, it's toss up between Elvira and Achy Breaky Heart but you can make a case for either. Somebody liked them, though, or they wouldn't have been played so often as to make me dread their being on the air waves!)
But back to Harry Chapin. I love his work, especially his musical, Cotton Patch Gospel which I use in my classes. So many songs he wrote, like Taxi and Cats In The Cradle, seem incredibly sad. (To read a mesmerizing account of the background of Cats In The Cradle, which my father preached a sermon about, click here: http://www.harrychapin.com/circle/winter04/behind.htm.) The saddest of all to me, though is WOLD, Harry's 1974 hit about the painful life of a disc jockey as revealed in a phone conversation with his ex-wife. Life has passed the DJ by as he pursued his on air dreams, losing his family in the process. According to Wikipedia, WOLD was at least partly responsible as inspiration for one of my favorite shows ever, WKRP IN Cincinnati. And it never occurred to me until I read up the meaning of the station call letters in the title; WOLD. Maybe I'm just slow.
But like so many other things, there's a story behind the story. Chapin was witness to a telephone conversation between Boston disc jockey Jim Connors and his former wife which led to the men talking about their profession and its strain on families which led to this classic song of sorrow, included on the album appropriately entitled Short Stories. Who knew that a phone call would lead to a song that, not coincidentally, disc jockeys all over the country identified with their lives? Don't they say that art imitates life? Or is it the other way around? You know, Harry Chapin died at a young age, being tragically killed in a car accident only seven years after WOLD helped cement his role as one of our best American artists. I really like the quote of his I used at the end of this entry. He was a great advocate and activist in the campaign to end world hunger. I need to ask myself everyday if I make a difference, if I change a life or lives. We can't all write enduring hit songs or play the guitar magically or be a natural on stage like he was but we can matter. The Scriptures teach that the Lord appointed a time for each of us to live; what are we doing with that time? Does it mean anything? Are we just marking time until we use it all up? Or is our life just a tragic waste, mimicking the life of the unnamed DJ in WOLD? When I was little in my hometown, I remember listening to KAWL, the local radio station of York, Nebraska. The idea that those voices coming into our home would belong to people with hopes and dreams never crossed my very young mind. Maybe they felt like Harry's fictional character as he sings the chorus:
The bright good-morning voice who's heard but never seen
Feeling all of
forty-five going on fifteen
Maybe we all fight that same feeling at times. We just needed Harry Chapin to put it into words. We need to believe that in some way, we count. And in Jesus, we do, even if the world doesn't use the same math to determine our value.
Applicable quote of the day: