Harry Chapin "Sniper and other Love Songs"

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#730 in the Series) is Harry Chapin, Sniper and other Love Songs.

We’re going back to the singer/songwriter genre today for a 1972 release by master storyteller, Harry Chapin.

Harry is one  of the few artists that I’ve always been interested in, but never had a chance to see perform live.  As many of you know, Harry’s been gone for years so that chance has passed.

There are other Chapin albums that I could have chosen that would have given me  much more popular material to cover, however  I chose this album for one song, “Sniper.”

It is quite possibly the most powerful song I’ve ever heard in all my life.  It clocks in at nearly ten minutes in length, “Sniper” is a bone chilling narrative of the Texas clock tower shootings from 1966.

He not only gives us a near play by play of the shootings, (Yes, names were changed) but also looks at what may have caused this famous flip-out.   Everything from the shooter’s (who’s name is also never mentioned) relationship with his mother to his need for celebrity.

Harry Chapin would often end his concerts with this song.  So you’d get a nice hour and a half of humorous story telling full of laughs and cheer, and then he’d send you on your way with this on your mind.  You had to love Harry Chapin.

The most well known song on the album was probably “Circles.” That or possibly “Better Place to Be.”

Harry Chapin was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, known for his extensive work in helping world hunger.  He was on his way to a giving a free concert in East Meadow, NY when he suffered what doctors thought was a heart attack, slowed on the Long Island Expressway and was rear ended by a semitrailer.  His VW Rabbit burst into flames.  He was extracted by other drivers, including the semi driver.  He died that evening.

Harry’s brother was singer Tom Chapin.  Tom was a child actor who starred as ‘Jack’ in the original version of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Jack was the leader of the civil tribe.

A foundation was started to continue Harry Chapin’s fight against world hunger work.

For more information on the Harry Chapin Foundation please visit HarryChapinFoundation.org.

Below is a live performance of Harry Chapin doing “Sniper” from one of the original episodes of Soundstage. Recorded in Chicago in 1975.  Watch it. Powerful stuff.

You can read the full lyrics to “Sniper” in the comments area below the piece.

Personnel

  • Harry Chapin – guitar, vocals
  • John Wallace – bass, vocals
  • Tim Scott – cello
  • Ron Palmer – lead guitar, vocals
  • Steve Chapin – keyboards
  • Russ Kunkel – drums and percussion

Track Listing

All songs by Harry Chapin

  1. “Sunday Morning Sunshine” – 3:51
  2. “Sniper” – 9:58
  3. “And the Baby Never Cries” – 5:09
  4. “Burning Herself” – 3:30
  5. “Barefoot Boy” – 3:29
  6. “Better Place to Be” – 8:36
  7. “Circle” – 3:24
  8. “Woman Child” – 5:24
  9. “Winter Song” – 2:31
Here’s a marvelous live version of Sniper.  You can hear the entire album below. 

Here’s the full album.

Posted by Larry Carta


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