Saturday, September 21, 2013


Been working on sand and debris cleanup around the neighborhood, and also on another post about the floods.  But - recently heard Harry Chapin's Taxi and was reminded that it is among my most favorite story-songs.  You can read about Chapin's life and untimely death here and check out his music here.

Here is a live version:

It was raining hard in 'Frisco,
I needed one more fare to make my night.
A lady up ahead waved to flag me down,
She got in at the light.

Oh, where you going to, my lady blue,
It's a shame you ruined your gown in the rain.
She just looked out the window, and said
"Sixteen Parkside Lane".

Something about her was familiar
I could swear I'd seen her face before,
But she said, "I'm sure you're mistaken"
And she didn't say anything more.

It took a while, but she looked in the mirror,
And she glanced at the license for my name.
A smile seemed to come to her slowly,
It was a sad smile, just the same.
And she said, "How are you Harry?"
I said, "How are you Sue?
Through the too many miles
and the too little smiles
I still remember you."

It was somewhere in a fairy tale,
I used to take her home in my car.
We learned about love in the back of the Dodge,
The lesson hadn't gone too far.
You see, she was gonna be an actress,
And I was gonna learn to fly.
She took off to find the footlights,
And I took off to find the sky. 

 Oh, I've got something inside me,
To drive a princess blind.
There's a wild man, wizard,
He's hiding in me, illuminating my mind.
Oh, I've got something inside me,
Not what my life's about,
Cause I've been letting my outside tide me,
Over 'till my time, runs out.

Baby's so high that she's skying,
Yes she's flying, afraid to fall.
I'll tell you why baby's crying,
Cause she's dying, aren't we all.

There was not much more for us to talk about,
Whatever we had once was gone.
So I turned my cab into the driveway,
Past the gate and the fine trimmed lawns.
And she said we must get together,
But I knew it'd never be arranged.
And she handed me twenty dollars,
For a two fifty fare, she said
"Harry, keep the change."
Well another man might have been angry,
And another man might have been hurt,
But another man never would have let her go...
I stashed the bill in my shirt. 

And she walked away in silence,
It's strange, how you never know,
But we'd both gotten what we'd asked for,
Such a long, long time ago.

You see, she was gonna be an actress
And I was gonna learn to fly.
She took off to find the footlights,
And I took off for the sky.
And here, she's acting happy,
Inside her handsome home.
And me, I'm flying in my taxi,
Taking tips, and getting stoned,
I go flying so high, when I'm stoned.

And here is the studio version:



DES said...

Jerry Coyne recently wrote about Chapin and Taxi on his WEIT blog [link on the right side of this blog] His thoughts are much like mine:

August 7, 2014 – 4:35 am

Harry Chapin lived only 39 years (1942-1981), and died under somewhat mysterious circumstances: it was in a car wreck in New York City, but that might have been preceded by a heart attack due to overwork. I doubt that many of you who are under 40 have heard of him. But Chapin produced two world-class songs (and here, of course, people will disagree): “Taxi,” and “Cat’s in the Cradle.“

Both songs are impeccable, with great music combined with a real-life story that resonates with many. “Cat’s in the Cradle” is about a young man’s difficult relationship with his dad; and it recalls my own youth. My dad was a terrific guy, though somewhat emotionally reserved, and when I went home for visits I would squirm inside until sufficient time had passed that I could ask to borrow the car keys to visit my friends. That’s one line in the song.

“Taxi”, recorded in 1972, stands for all lost hopes, lost loves, smashed dreams, The One Who Got Away, and is partly based on Chapin’s real-life experience as a taxi driver. The Wikipedia article gives the “plot,” but you should listen. The only part that’s hard to understand is the falsetto interpolation in the middle, which was actually sung by John Wallace, the male bass player, as he does here at 3:40.. The words are:

Baby’s so high, that she’s skying
Yes she’s flying, afraid to fall
I’ll tell you why baby’s crying
Cause she’s dying, aren’t we all…

From the Wikipedia article:

Chapin debuted the song on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1972, which was followed by many calls and telegrams sent from viewers to NBC demanding that Chapin return to the show. It was the first time in the show’s history that host Johnny Carson brought a performer back the very next night for an encore performance

The original recording is here, but I always like live performances. This is one, and though it doesn’t come up to the quality of the recording, it’s pretty close.

This is an example of pop songwriting as it should be; it’s the seven-minute equivalent of a novel. It affects me in a particularly personal way, but maybe it will with you, too. It was also a favorite of my late best friend, Kenny.

hoosierdaddy said...

Right on Professor Coyne! Not too many storytellers in the business these days.