When Was The Last Time You Played This Album?

Harry Chapin “Sniper and other Love Songs”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#127 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.

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 been passed.

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

Quite possibly the most powerful song I’ve ever heard in all my life.  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 pay by play of the shootings, (Yes, names were changed) but also looks at what my 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 leaving with this on your mind.  You had to love Harry Chapin.

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.

Here’s 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.

I think the heaviest part of the song is the final chorus.  ‘I Am, I Was, and now, I will Be! I will Be!!

Click on the album title for the full text of Lyrics.

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One response

  1. Here are the lyrics to ‘Sniper’

    Sniper, Words and Music, Harry Chapin

    It is an early Monday morning.
    The sun is becoming bright on the land.
    No one is watching as he comes a-walking.
    Two bulky suitcases hang from his hands.

    He heads towards the tower that stands in the campus.
    He goes through the door, he starts up the stairs.
    The sound of his footsteps, the sound of his breathing,
    The sound of the silence when no one was there.

    I didn’t really know him.
    He was kind of strange.
    Always sort of sat there.
    He never seemed to change.

    He reached the catwalk. He put down his burden.
    The four sided clock began to chime.
    Seven AM, the day is beginning.
    So much to do and so little time.

    He looks at the city where no one had known him.
    He looks at the sky where no one looks down.
    He looks at his life and what it has shown him.
    He looks for his shadow it cannot be found.

    He was such a moody child, very hard to touch.
    Even as a baby he never smiled too much. No, no. No, no.

    You bug me, she said.
    You’re ugly, she said.
    Please hug me, I said.
    But she just sat there
    With the same flat stare
    That she saves for me alone
    When I’m home.
    When I’m home.
    Take me home.

    He laid out the rifles, he loaded the shotgun,
    He stacked up the cartridges along the wall.
    He knew he would need them for his conversation.
    If it went as he planned, then he might use them all.

    He said Listen you people I’ve got a question
    You won’t pay attention but I’ll ask anyhow.
    I found a way that will get me an answer.
    Been waiting to ask you ’til now.
    Right now!

    Am I?
    I am a lover who’s never been kissed.
    Am I?
    I am a fighter who’s not made a fist.
    Am I?
    If I’m alive then there’s so much I’ve missed.
    How do I know I exist?
    Are you listening to me?
    Are you listening to me?
    Am I?

    The first words he spoke took the town by surprise.
    One got Mrs. Gibbons above her right eye.
    It blew her through the window wedged her against the door.
    Reality poured from her face, staining the floor.

    He was kind of creepy,
    Sort of a dunce.
    I met him at the corner bar.
    I only dated the poor boy once,
    That’s all. Just once, that was all.

    Bill Whedon was questioned as he stepped from his car.
    Tom Scott ran across the street but he never got that far.
    The police were there in minutes, they set up barricades.
    He spoke right on over them in a half-mile circle.
    In a dumb struck city his pointed questions were sprayed.

    He knocked over Danny Tyson as he ran towards the noise.
    Just about then the answers started coming. Sweet, sweet joy.
    Thudding in the clock face, whining off the walls,
    Reaching up to where he sat, their answering calls.

    Thirty-seven people got his message so far.
    Yes, he was reaching them right were they are.

    They set up an assault team. They asked for volunteers.
    They had to go and get him, that much was clear.
    And the word spread about him on the radios and TV’s.
    In appropriately sober tone they asked “Who can it be?”

    He was a very dull boy, very taciturn.
    Not much of a joiner, he did not want to learn.
    No, no. No, no.

    They’re coming to get me, they don’t want to let me
    Stay in the bright light too long.
    It’s getting on noon now, it’s going to be soon now.
    But oh, what a wonderful sound!

    Mama, won’t you nurse me?
    Rain me down the sweet milk of your kindness.
    Mama, it’s getting worse for me.
    Won’t you please make me warm and mindless?

    Mama, yes you have cursed me.
    I never will forgive you for your blindness.
    I hate you!

    The wires are all humming for me.
    And I can hear them coming for me.
    Soon they’ll be here, but there’s nothing to fear.
    Not any more though they’ve blasted the door.

    As the copter dropped the gas he shouted “Who cares?”.
    They could hear him laughing as they started up the stairs.
    As they stormed out on the catwalk, blinking at the sun,
    With their final fusillade his answer had come.

    Am I?
    There is no way that you can hide me.
    Am I?
    Though you have put your fire inside me.
    Am I?
    You’ve given me my answer can’t you see?
    I was!
    I am!
    and now I will be,
    I will be,
    I will be,
    I will be,
    I will be,
    I WILL BE!

    September 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm

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