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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the July 16, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Harry Chapin’s Musical Tales

This is the first time I’ve looked at Harry Chapin’s

music in a long, long time and I fell in love with it all over

again," says Frank Abrahams of Westminster Choir College.

Fortunately for Chapin fans throughout the Princeton area, Abrahams

made plans to do something about it.

"Lies and Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin" will

be presented in a free performance at Bristol Chapel on the


campus on Friday, August 1. Featured performers include Ben Dibble

and Adam Dietz, with musical direction by Abrahams and direction by

Nathan Brewer.

"We always plan a theatrical performance by staff during


high school summer workshop on campus," Abrahams explains. "To

high school kids Harry Chapin is not a household name, so I’m excited

about presenting him to a young audience."

"I’m old enough to remember Chapin through television and his

LPs. This was during the post-Vietnam era and the songs very much

reflected the mood of the country. It’s a shame people don’t sing

them more. He was a fine composer and his songs are really well


Harry Chapin was an American balladeer who made a career of setting

short stories to music. His most popular and enduring tunes include

"Taxi," "W.O.L.D.," and "Cat’s in the Cradle,"

as well as "Mr. Tanner," "The Rock," "Sniper,"

and "Tangled Up Puppet." "Lies and Legends" is a revue

that comprises 13 of his greatest hits.

Chapin devoted much of his time and income to help the hungry and

the socially disenfranchised. In 1975 he founded World Hunger Year,

a not-for-profit organization founded with radio talk show host and

present executive director Bill Ayres. Close to half his concerts

were performed as benefits for hunger relief. During his career he

raised over $5 million for social causes.

Chapin died on the Long Island Expressway on July 16, 1981, at the

age of 39. But he is still remembered through his music and generous


"Lies and Legends" was first produced in 1985 at the Village

Gate Theater in New York City. It is an ensemble show with all five

actors on stage most of the time, whether telling the story, singing

background vocals, or just listening. The actors appear as themselves,

singing directly to the audience, and often assuming the character

in the story they tell.

Chapin was born in 1942 in New York City, the second of four sons

of James and Jeanne Chapin. His two younger brothers, both former

members of his band, are Steve Chapin and the popular singer and


Tom Chapin. The eldest brother, Jim Chapin, born in 1941, was an


an activist, and a political consultant who died last year after


for 22 years as a member of the board of the World Hunger Year.

"Harry Chapin was a man who wrote from the heart about people

and situations he cared about deeply," says Abrahams. "He

had a real knack for telling a story at a time when folk music was

very much in vogue, but his songs are beyond most folk music in the

sense that they’re about ordinary people that anyone can relate to.

They have a very personal message."

"A well-written song makes an emotional impact on the listener

and on the performer. I think the young people are going to react

emotionally when they hear these lyrics."

— Nicole Plett

Lies and Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin,

Westminster Choir College, Bristol Chapel, 609-921-2663. The

music of Harry Chapin performed by Ben Dibble, Adam Dietz, and


Free. Friday, August 1, 7:30 p.m.<

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