The Cooper Street Relic

Just another blog from The Republic Of Hespeler

Harry Forster Chapin was an amazing singer/songwriter whose body of work is second to none. From Cats in the cradle,Circle,Sniper to WOLD he wrote material that stands the test of time but in 1972 he released the Song TAXI and it became a standard.

From the opening lyrics you knew this was not going to be about happiness

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.

The song tells us about a lonely Cab driver in San Fransisco whose last fare of the night turns out to be an old girl friend who is now a struggling actress and how they had gotten away from each other””took off to find the footlights” and Harry “took off to find the sky”.  But is this story true? Apparently yes.

Clare McIntyre was a woman who Harry fell in love with while at Columbia University and indeed she wanted to be an actress and the two of them planned to be successful show business veterans. However after a two year relationship Claire wound up going to Europe and then went on to San Fransisco and lost contact with Harry.  But did the meeting in the taxi take place? According to his wife Sandy”

“I think he was feeling pretty low about it, and wrote the song ‘Taxi’ with the idea that the people he had told his dreams – that he was gonna make a great film – were gonna get into the cab, and so he ended up being a cab driver after all the big talk. And one of whom would be the girlfriend that he had while he was at Cornell. Sue was a real person.”  That really doesn’t answer the Question but we can only imagine that the meeting did in fact take place because Taxi is an Immortal song.

On Thursday, July 16, 1981, just after noon, Chapin was driving in the left lane on the Long Island Expressway at about 65 mph on the way to perform at a free concert scheduled for later that evening at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York. Near exit 40 in Jericho he put on his emergency flashers, presumably because of either a mechanical or medical problem (possibly a heart attack). He then slowed to about 15 miles (24 km) per hour and veered into the center lane, nearly colliding with another car. He swerved left, then to the right again, ending up directly in the path of a tractor-trailer truck. The truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Chapin’s blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the fuel tank by climbing its back and causing it to burst into flames.

The driver of the truck and a passerby were able to get Chapin out of the burning car through the window and by cutting the seat belts before the car was completely engulfed in flames. He was taken by police helicopter to a hospital, where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes to revive him. A spokesman for the Nassau County Medical Center said Chapin had suffered a heart attack and “died of cardiac arrest”, but there was no way of knowing whether it occurred before or after the accident. As for Claire, well nothing can be found about her as she has slipped into the memory’s of many of us when we hear

“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”.

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