Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feed the Hungry: Harry Chapin

It's not widely known that Harry Chapin spent much of his time before he died helping to fight hunger around the world. As a matter of fact, Harry donated the proceeds from many of his concerts to help feed the hungry.
My signed program and T-Shirt. Notice it is
signed "To Pitts" for me because I am from
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
While stationed in England during my time in the Air Force, I was fortunate enough to have attended one such performance. It was a fantastic concert. Easily, by far, the most memorable I've ever attended. Yes. That's right. Thirty years and I still talk about how fun it was to hear him perform. Believe it or not, I still have a shirt (never worn) and a program he signed for me tucked neatly away with some other memorabilia. Harry seemed to have me, along with the rest of the crowd, mesmerized. With one song, he'd whip us into of frenzy. Right on cue, we'd dance, clap, or sing along with Harry and the band. With the next, he’d press a finger to his lips… just like that, we were lulled us into complete silence while he sang a tale of sorrow.
Harry let the words of his songs do the talking. He sang simple tales like; W0LD about a down on his luck DJ; 30,000 Pounds of Bananas about an 18 wheel truck driver; and She is Only Seventeen, a metaphor about youth being the future of our country. In other songs, he tackled controversial issues; Woman Child about a teenage girl who made the difficult decision to abort her child; Love is Just Another Word about inequities and prejudices in our world; and Cats in the Cradle about a father who chose drugs over spending time with his son.
A great album with an eclectic mix of
Harry's tunes.
As a writer and avid reader, it was easy for me to decide what made his songs so appealing to me?  Simply put, his songs tell a story... music not necessarily needed... although recommended. He used words to paint a scene. He brought the characters in his songs to life. He made the places he sang about become real. He drew us into the story so that we became a part of the issue about which he wrote and sang.
This month, as those of us at route19writers blog about giving and receiving, check out the lyrics below from my favorite Harry Chapin song. I think you'll agree The Shortest Story, although short on words, is nothing but powerful on message. It's a perfect example of showing what is happening versus telling what is happening. 

As you read it... or listen to it... take away whatever message you wish. Appreciate how a few simple words, when strung together properly, can make a magical story. Or come away like me, inspired by Harry's words, to give to those less fortunate than us.
The Shortest Story
I am born today, the sun burns its promise in my eyes;
Mama strikes me and I draw a breath and cry.
Above me a cloud softly tumbles through the sky;
I am glad to be alive.

It is my seventh day, I taste the hunger and I cry;
my brother and sister cling to Mama's side.
She squeezes her breast, but it has nothing to provide;
someone weeps, I fall asleep.

It is twenty days today, Mama does not hold me anymore;
I open my mouth but I am too weak to cry.
Above me a bird slowly crawls across the sky;
why is there nothing now to do but die?

For more information about Harry Chapin, his life, his lyrics, and his fight to end hunger, visit the following links:

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story. It's cool to see how powerful a song can be with so few words. Thanks for sharing.