By Melissa Arnold
Throughout the 1970s, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin built a high-profile music career that included more than a dozen hit singles, 11 albums and a host of awards, including two Grammys. Despite his sudden death in 1981 at only 38 years old, Chapin left behind a massive legacy through both his music and a profoundly generous spirit.
Most people know Harry Chapin for his prolific contributions to the world of folk and rock music, but the “Cat’s in the Cradle” singer was also involved in a variety of charity efforts. He was especially passionate about ending hunger around the world. In 1975, he co-founded Why Hunger, a non-profit that supports grassroots organizations in 35 countries. He was also committed to making a difference in his backyard on Long Island, and in 1980, he founded Long Island Cares, which runs food pantries throughout the area.
On Saturday, May 6, the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) in Stony Brook will host a charity food drive and film screening of Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something.
“Like many people, my earliest memory of Harry Chapin is when my dad would have our family listen carefully to ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ on the AM radio in our family station wagon,” said Tom Needham, LIMEHOF’s vice chairman and host of the Sounds of Film radio show on 90.1 WUSB-FM. “Harry wrote songs about everyday people and their struggles, and he had a way of connecting with his audience on a personal level. His life and career serve as a testament to the ability of music and advocacy to bring about positive change in the world.”
The documentary, released in 2020, follows Chapin from a young boy in the shadows of his jazz musician father to finding his own success. When in Doubt, Do Something paints a new picture of the singer-songwriter who used his fame as a launching point to help others and influence politics. It also features testimonials from Chapin’s family, along with fellow musicians including Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers, Pat Benatar and many more.
“I always believed that at some time in our history that there would be a documentary film made about Harry’s life and dedication towards ending hunger,” said Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares. “Half of his annual concert [revenue] was used to raise funds to address food insecurity, and many schools reference Harry when discussing hunger, poverty, and social justice. I was honored to be a part of the film to discuss the founding of Long Island Cares and how we work to continue his legacy.”
According to Long Island Cares media relations specialist Peter Crescenti, there are 230,000 food-insecure individuals on Long Island today, including 68,000 children. The organization’s food pantries have seen significant increases in visitors over the past several years, a trend they anticipate will continue. But Crescenti said they are continuing to expand their reach and programs to meet the growing need.
“In addition to providing millions of pounds of food a year to more than 325 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, we also run a pantry for pet supplies and a variety of programs for young people, veterans, the homeless and others seeking support,” he said. “We are dedicated to being the voice of those who have no voice, and addressing why poverty, immigration status, racial discrimination and other root causes of hunger still exist.”
Following the film screening, Tom Needham will lead a Q&A session with members of Harry Chapin’s family and staff from LI Cares.
The event will be held at 2 p.m. May 6 at the LIMEHOF Museum, 97 Main Street, Stony Brook. Tickets are $19.50 for adults, with discounts available for seniors, veterans and children at www.limusichalloffame.org. Each ticket also includes admission to the museum. Food donations are strongly encouraged.
LIMEHOF is a not-for-profit organization — ticket sales support scholarships for high schoolers and music programs in local places of need, including hospitals and senior centers. For more information and upcoming events, visit www.limusichalloffame.org/museum. To learn more about LI Cares and how to support their mission, visit www.licares.org.