Still Under the Influence

Here’s a video from a singer/songwriter/world changer who has left my life all marked up with fingerprints. It would be hard to come up with a single influence, living or dead, who has impacted my life more than Harry.

I saw him LIVE in concert in Spfld with my friend Baggins. It was a night I will never forget for many, many reasons. After the show, Harry was in the lobby signing autographs and selling swag in exchange for loot. If there was change left from your purchase you could say, “Harry, keep the change.” (A line from one of his most well-loved songs.) The change all went to Harry’s project to end world hunger. This was way before it was the cool rockstar thing to do but millions were starving all over the world.

I stood there, got my t-shirt, which is right behind me, right now, and when the guy behind the table offered me the change I said the line, he shouted it back to Harry and Harry made a huge deal about it. He made a huge deal about it every time it happened that night which probably was up around 200 times before the crowd was gone. While the roar of “keep the change” was still echoing in the hall I spotted my art teacher, Mr. E., who had been there with his fiance’, pull out a big, ugly, clay pitcher I’d made in art class and he asked Harry to autograph it. Harry looked at it, looked at him, shrugged and then signed the bottom of the pitcher, which is also right behind me, right now. Mr. E. handed him some loot for the cause and Harry cheered, everyone else cheered and I stood there shocked and stunned.

A couple months later Harry passed away. Which totally sucked. It got me really angry with a God I wasn’t sure I believed in and led to an angry, shouted, one-sided conversation with this God whose name I did not know. A few years later I watched a recorded version of the Cotton Patch Gospel Musical that he wrote the music and lyrics for and in that musical I heard two voices I recognized. Today there’s very little about what I do that gives me as much of a thrill as feeding a hungry person. And every time I do it feels a little like Harry and a little like Jesus and more and more it feels a little like me.

This video is from the first Harry song I ever heard and it’s probably his most famous. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Harry Chapin…

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in death, Family, Friends, God, Life, Meaning, Reflective, video. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Still Under the Influence

  1. Brad says:

    Wait, Im confused. All this time I thought is was “Zanadu” and Olivia Newton John that played such an important part in your young, impressionable life up to that point.

  2. brianmpei says:

    Brad: First it was Xanadu and it was pretty much any girl with an accent, not necessarily Australian. But no, Harry was much more influential than Olivia.

    Do you still have the old Springsteen albums or have you gone completely bluegrass now? And how’s L?

  3. Brad says:

    I actually have all my albums including Def Lepard and AH HA the one hit wonder band. Gee…….If I only had a trun table to play them on ;P

    L is OK, nothing new or good to report as of yet. Did you get my email?

  4. Brian D says:

    I like Harry and Olivia, too. I heard this song and looked to see who was singing. It was a guy named Harry that I had never heard of until that point and I thought it was one of the most profound songs I had heard. I instantly became a fan. Harry had insight. He died while I was in Europe, and I miss the other songs he would have written. I also liked Keith Green, and he died at a young age. Another one I liked was Rich Mullins, who died in an auto accident at age 41 after a prolific career. I wish people who have an impact on others would live longer.

  5. Andrew says:

    My favorite Harry tune is the classic, ‘Mr. Tanner’…we often listen to Harry on Sat. mornings while slowly sipping coffee and pondering the day. When-ever Mr. Tanner comes along I try with all my might to find my best baritone and spoil a perfectly good song. Harry just invites participation, there was nothing static about the guy…always coloring off the page. Thank you Harry for all the story’s you keep singing to us, you help me to try so many things…at least once. …You know Brian, this picture of Harry looks alot like John McPhee… and come to think of it , John is a pretty good story teller…do you suppose…. he’s back?

  6. Andrew says:

    P.S. neither Harry of John would like to see there name in print with the wrong spelling…..it’s actually MacPhee as opposed to McPhee…but he does have that same amazing voice voice…I think it issssssss him…..

  7. brianmpei says:

    Andrew: There’s a similarity for sure and in more ways than just the music. I’ll have to talk to his mom…

    Brad: I’ve got a turtable I’ll bring down for you. Would love to hear the old Springsteen again. Could live without Def.

    Brian D: Keith was also a huge influence for me and he and Harry didn’t die far apart. I’ll blog about Keith another time. Rich, well, there was only one and I definitely miss him.

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