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Saturday, June 4, 2011

30,000 Pounds of Bananas

Flying in clear air yesterday from Ottawa, Canada to Philadelphia, I had a window seat and could see Scranton, Penn. from above. I thought of the glorious "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" song by Harry Chapin.

Chapin was my favorite musician of the 1970s. His fascinating lyrics are typified by the title of what's arguably the best folk-rock live album ever produced, Greatest Stories Live (a double album, too). His music supported the lyrics in a straightforward way, but it was melodic and played with crispness and subtleties. Probably best of all, however, was his stage presence. He seemed to enjoy being on stage and interacting with an audience more than any musician I've ever seen.

Chapin played Atlanta in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 (a two-night gig), 1979 (twice), and 1980. I don't remember which of those I attended, but I saw most of them. Sadly he died in an automobile accident in 1981. I put my copy of GSL on the shelf for a long time thereafter. It was just too painful to listen anymore.

Time heals many wounds, though. Chapin spent much of his energy calling the world's attention to hunger. For this he posthumously received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the two highest civilan awards in the U.S. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, for many years I served on the boards of the Inter-faith Food Shuttle and Food Runners Collaborative, two of the primary hunger-relief agencies in the Triangle.

Twice during my terms, the greater Chapin family came to Raleigh and played benefit concerts for our organizations. Dad Jim (now deceased), brothers Steve and Tom, daughter Jen, and nieces Abigail, Lily Chapin, and Jessica Craven were at one or both shows. They played mostly their own body of music, with a few "Harry songs", and it was grand. By the way, many of the Chapins  are still involved in advocacy against hunger.

You might be surprised how widespread a problem food security is, even in these United States. If you live in the Triangle and want to get involved, give me a call. If you live outside the Triangle, visit Feeding America and look up your local food bank.