Harry Chapin concluded an old Rolling Stone interview with this quote: "The major thing I'm afraid of is being 65 and saying, 'Gee, I wish I had done this and that, and that.' I want to face old age knowing I've tried all I wanted to try."
Chapin was not content to be merely a songwriter and balladeer, though there were few who could match his lyric storytelling skills. He dabbled in filmmaking and received an Academy Award nomination. He helped found the World Hunger Fund with hopes of ending global starvation. He was a key lobbyist for other humane causes. About half of the 200 concerts he performed each year were benefits.
Chapin had done this and that, and he had tried all that he wanted to try, to be content with himself and to improve the world through his charitable causes. But, sadly, he never made it to 65. Not even close.
On this day in 1981, on his way to another benefit concert, Chapin died on the Long Island Expressway in a bizarre accident that has never been fully explained. Either he was having a heart attack (the listed cause of death) or he was negotiating traffic with car trouble. With the emergency flashers blinking on his 1975 VW Rabbitt, Chapin swerved from the fast lane to the center lane and was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer truck. He was 38.
Any day is a good day to listen to Harry Chapin, but especially this day. I can't find "Verities and Balderdash'' -- his first gold album, which featured his only No. 1 single, "Cat's in the Cradle'' -- but here's a clip of the song. It includes an introduction by Chapin's wife, Sandy, and their son, Josh, for whom the song was written. It'll give you goosebumps.