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Music Rewind: The Activism & Storytelling Of Harry Chapin - Part 2

Updated on November 30, 2009

He returned to New York City and got a job with a film maker who specialized in documentaries with the assistance of Richard Leacock, Harry's uncle who was famous movie director.

Harry quickly took to the art of documentary film making and soon began ploughing through half a century of clips from famous boxers such as Jack Dempsey, Jack Sharkey, and even Theodore Roosevelt, the US President who in his youth was a fairly decent boxer.

Through judicious editing of all of these clips Harry was able to create a coherent narrative documentary which he entitled Legendary Champions. He intended this first documentary to be only the first third of a trilogy of the sport of boxing but never got to the other two parts. As it was, Legendary Champions was nominated for the 1969 Academy Award for best documentary feature.

The documentary did not win the Academy Award in 1969, however it did manage to land Best Documentary Honours at the Atlanta Film Festival and the New York Film Festival.

By now things were finally looking up in Harry's life. His brother Tom had landed the role of a Saturday morning TV series host in the 1970 series Make a Wish and Harry provided all the original music. Harry went on to write music for films such as She Lives and TV series such as Ball Four. About this time Harry married Sandy Gaston Cashmore and suddenly became the stepfather to three children... a situation which harkened back to the reverse situation when he was a child with Henry Hart.

Beginning in 1972 Harry started his tremendous song writing and recording run of eleven albums including three which were double albums and countless single records. In any given year Harry Chapin would play up to 300 separate concerts and at least half of them were set up so that all proceeds would go to charitable organizations.

His gross earnings through many years of his life were in the millions of dollars but his generosity and donations to various charities throughout America were so profound that he was often completely out of money.

Harry exclusively wrote songs that were stories from his own experience in some way or another. The fans of Harry Chapin, even so many years after his death, still hold his music in their hearts. His double album with the title of Greatest Stories Live still sells strongly and some of his other albums such as Dance Band of the Titanic, Lost and Found, Verities and Balderdash and the Bottom Line Encore Collection are treasured by Harry Chapin fans all over the world.

His songs were covered by some of the greatest artists by both pop and country music. For example, Johnny Cash, Ricky Scaggs and Judy Collins have recorded Cat's in the Cradle. In 1975 Harry had written and self-published a collection of his poems entitled Looking Seeing. As a self-published vanity press book he was not backed by any major publisher, however it swiftly became so popular that the T.Y. Crowell publishing company purchased the rights and published it as paperback. Many of his poems were the actual lyrics to Harry's songs and now Looking Seeing is a collector's item.

Continued In Music Rewind: The Activism & Storytelling Of Harry Chapin - Part 3

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