Chapin was a man who truly cared about what was going on around him. When he toured, and he toured extensively, he'd keep what money he made one night, then give everything he made the next night to charity, usually his World Hunger Year (WHY) charity. His band generally consisted of himself and friend Big John Wallace on guitar, brother Steve Chapin on keyboards, and brother Tom Chapin on guitars and backing vocals. He was loyal to friends and family, and knowing this helps understand who he is in his music.
The first song on Verities and Balderdash is his most well known, "Cats in the Cradle". The song stemretireska note his wife left him, attempting to scold him for being on the road so much. Harry took this and made it into a story about a father who doesn't have time for his son as he grows, only to find the son doesn't have time for him when he retires, basically you reap what you sow. The song has become something of an anthem for fathers and sons to this day.
Also on the album is "I Wanna Learn a Love Song", which tells the true story of how he met his wife, giving her guitar lessons as her first husband ignored her. Harry opens himself up like nobody else, you really feel his car and anticipation in the song. Musically, these songs are fairly simple, the main instruments are his acoustic guitar and his voice, punctuated by some drums, a base, a violin... You get so wrapped in the stories he tells, you tend to find that you aren't paying much attention to where the music is coming from, it's simply a part of the story that just guys right in.
The one song that does put a spotlight on the instruments is the delightful "Six String Orchestra". Harry takes the role of a young boy just learning to play guitar...and it's not going very well. He plays intentionally awkwardly, until determining that he just needs a group around him, then one by one he introduces the instruments as they join in to make a much better sound...right until he comes back to reality. It's a very sweet and funny song.
Now the true focal point here for Harry's fans is "30,000 Pounds of Bananas". This became a staple of Harry's live performances when he started adding more to the song. It's based on a story an old man told him about a man who crashed a truck full of bananas in Scranton, Pennsylvania, detailing what his final thoughts and actions might have been as he came crashing down with all those bananas around him. This is, of course, the studio version; the live version, which can be found on the "Greatest Stories Live" album, details his attempts to write an ending to this song, infamously resulting in his brothers telling him. "Harry...it sucks." This is where it all started, take a listen to this one before going to that album, and you'll know better where it comes from.
Harry Chapin unfortunately died in 1981 after presumably falling asleep at the wheel and being hit by a truck. With any other artist, we would mourn the loss of a performer, but Harry was such a great storyteller, and so open, that we can't help but mourn the loss of a father, husband, brother and friend as well. However, his music is timeless, and this album is possibly the best of his studio releases. If you have even a passing interest in Harry, or in folk music, I would highly recommend giving this album a listen.