Friday, June 28, 2019

Harry Chapin's Taxi

Harry Chapin's short career as a singer/songwriter came to an end when he died in a car accident in 1981. He's remembered, of course, for his No. 1 single "Cat's in the Cradle" in 1974, a story song in itself, but his first single from his debut LP was "Taxi," which peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard charts.

"Taxi" tells the story of a cabbie who quite by chance picks up a woman who gives him an address in the rich part of town. As they drive along, mixing a little bit of small talk with awkward silence, each recognizes the other a lover from many years ago. They chat for a bit and Harry drops her at her destination.

He laments, "She was gonna be an actress, and I was gonna learn to fly." The brilliance of Chapin's storytelling is revealed when he returns to the image near the end of the song and turns it on its head:

And me, I'm flying in my taxi,
Taking tips, and getting stoned.

On the radio show, AM on the Radio, on iHeart Radio and Daybreak USA I implied that the song was autobiographical, and indeed it was, involving a woman named Clare McIntyre-Ross, whom Harry dated for two years and the two went their separate ways. How much of the rest of it is true doesn't really matter, the emotions imparted in Harry's scarred vocal tell it all.

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