This past weekend as I noted in my previous post marked the 30th anniversary of the passing of Harry Chapin. Harry's music played a pivotal role in my ascendance from childhood to adulthood. His were the first concerts that I attended without parental supervision. I would sit for hours listening to his albums, (yes-ALBUMS!!) trying desperately to memorize the lyrics to every song-not an easy task as his shortest song ran over four minutes in length-while attempting chord progression after chord progression until I had a semblance of his sound. His poetry spoke to me. He was a storyteller set to music and I was enthralled. Harry Chapin was to me what John, Paul, George, and Ringo where to my friend the Beatles Fanatic. He and Debbie Friedman z"l were the soundtrack to my youth. This adoration only grew each summer as I headed off to camp to live, work, grow and share with an entire community of Harry-philes. GUCI was a veritable cornucopia of learning opportunities about Harry and his music. We would sing his songs at campfires and lights-out programs. We would use his music to enhance shiur and limmudim messages. We would talk of his work for World Hunger and his great philanthropic deeds. Harry was one of my first Tikkun Olam heroes. But most of all, we would just sit around and sing. There was always a new Harry song or album to learn and listen to.
The summer that Harry died, I was 18 years old. He was touring that July and was headed to Indianapolis later that month. Rumours were swirling around camp that "the powers that be" were in contact with Harry and his people to come to camp to visit, and perhaps perform a few songs. It was definitely in the talking stage, but it would tragically never come to fruition. When we heard the news of his horrific crash, I recall feeling as though somebody punched me in the stomach. We mourned for days as was befitting his iconic status. This past weekend marking the 30th anniversary, that feeling came back to me just as fresh and just as visceral.
It is truly odd to me that I can recall 30 years with such colour and vividness. 30 years. I have graduated both high school and university. I got married, had children, watched them grow and develop lives of their own independent from me. I have developed a career, built a life with friends and family, suffered loss and accumulated much. 30 years has gone by much too quickly. I am not trying to be wistful or maudlin, just stating a fact. Harry knew it. He even sang about it.
I let time go lightly when I'm here with you,
I let time go lightly when the day is through.
I keep a watch on time when I've have work to do,
I let time go lightly with you.
30 years is a long time and it has flown by in an instant.
***A quick addendum. It was actually Harry's brother Steve that wrote the lyrics for this song, but Harry was the singer.