Long Island, NY Harry Chapin Dies in Auto Wreck, Jul 1981
Pop Singer CHAPIN Killed In Crash.
NEW YORK -- Pop singer HARRY CHAPIN, writer of such wistful ballads as "Taxi" and
"Sequel," was killed Thursday when his car was hit by a tractor-trailer on the Long Island Expressway.
CHAPIN was alone in a blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, and his car apparently was struck after he moved into the center of the three-lane west bound section of the highway, said Detective Sgt. Everett Campbell of the Nassau County Police Homicide Division.
CHAPIN, who played many concerts in the Central New York area, was perhaps best known to Syracusans for his efforts in helping to save the Syracuse Area Landmark Theatre.
Nearly 3,000 people attended a benefit concert CHAPIN gave Oct. 11, 1977, raising nearly $8,000 for a group that went on to buy the theater and save it from the wrecker's ball.
Peter Baum, who at the time was vice-president of SALT's Board of Directors, said Thursday night he remembered CHAPIN as "a very intelligent guy and a guy who was interested in everything."
"The board had been looking for an entertainer to do a benefit," Baum said, and discovered few who were willing. Those who did, generally charged a minimum fee, "sometimes as much as $100,000."
A local agent who was also on the board, Joseph DiSantis, came up with a proposal that CHAPIN would appear, for a fee of $5,000, but the fee would be donated to one of his charities, either the Long Island Performing Arts Foundation or World Hunger Year.
A local promoter agreed to put up the $5,000, Baum said, "so at worst we could break even."
Once the word got out that CHAPIN was coming, tickets began selling very quickly, he said, and it was standing-room only by the time the show began.
"It was the first time in about five years that Loew's had been filled to capacity," he said.
"It was a tremendous nigh, probably one of the most memorable nights of my life to see the theater filled after years of neglect."
One of the songs CHAPIN sang that night was a ballad written about saving the theater by the winner of a contest held at Syracuse University.
After the concert, CHAPIN greeted the staff and took a tour of the theater he had helped save, Baum said. Then, it was time for sandwiches at Danzer's, a tradition CHAPIN maintained each of the four times he played at the Landmark.
His last performance at the Landmark was May 23.
"I think he always considered the theater as a kind of home away from home," Baum said. "We always considered a piece of him to be in that theater."
CHAPIN struck in big in 1972 with "Taxi," a plaintive ballad about a taxi driver's chance encounter with an old sweetheart, and came back again last year with a followup titled simply "Sequel."
The songs that intervened were never as popular, although, "Cat's In The Cradle"went gold in 1974. That tune was written to a poem by CHAPIN'S wife which chided him about neglecting his family.
After the accident at about 12:30 p. m. Thursday the truck driver pulled CHAPIN through a window of his burning car, Campbell said.
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