1981 Harry Chapin Hunger Concert at Walsh Remembered
Printed with permission: Walsh World, October 1981
It was a warm Tuesday evening, the 15th of May in 1979 when all of the wonderful and hard-working people producing the evening's concert waited anxiously for Harry Chapin to arrive. Rick Pender had done a superb job with the publicity, and the results were appearing as the gymnasium began to fill. We were among the fortunate ones: not only in having Chapin on our campus, but also in receiving permission to have the proceeds from the concert donated to "World Hunger Year," the non-profit organization established by Chapin and Fr. Bill Ayers.
It was getting late, I recall…the gym was filled to capacity and still no Chapin. His original flight plan to Cleveland had to be changed, and his security simply informed us that he would arrive in Pittsburgh, rent a car and drive himself to Walsh! The intended words of assurance: "Don't worry, he'll be there," were not all that assuring - we didn't even know if Chapin knew where Walsh College was. With the concert scheduled to begin at 8 pm, Chapin miraculously arrived with just enough time to wash, eat some fruit, and tune his guitar. With no prior sound check, and the sound technician pulling his hair, Harry Chapin was greeted on stage by some 1800 enthusiastic fans as he began an energy-charged, three-hour, one-man show. Tireless creativity and a masterful command of his audience characterized his performance.
But Harry Chapin was not only an artful entertainer; he was also a concerned human being and articulate spokesperson for a number of "causes" - most particularly, World Hunger. A member of Carter's presidential Commission on World Hunger, Chapin performed half of his annual 220 concerts as benefits, raising some $500,000 a year for W.H.Y. Backed by Chapin music lovers and community hunger organizations, the Walsh College Chapin Hunger Concert alone raised $7,000.
Then tragically, on July 16, 1981, Harry Chapin was killed in an
automobile accident on the Long Island Expressway. All the media
carried the news: the entertainment world lost a star; the Hunger
Campaign had lost a friend; and the Walsh College Community can
remember his visit fondly, and with great pride.
Harry Chapin (December 7, 1942 - July 16, 1981) was a singer and songwriter best known for songs such as "Taxi" and "Cat's in the Cradle." He was also a dedicated humanitarian and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 1987.