Harry Chapin – “Taxi”

In this world, there are now and were people in the past who could use their unique writing skills to write song lyrics, poetry, stories, movies, and/or plays that would energize the imagination to a point that would make one feel as though they were bearing witness to the story being told. You could imagine what the characters looked like, sound like, their clothing, the scenery, as well as the actions that took place in the story. Do you get the picture?

Harry Chapin was one of those great storytellers that could tell a story that would catch the listener’s attention, hold it, and leave them wanting more right after taking tissue and blotting the tears from their eyes. Yes, that great of a songwriter! “Taxi,” and “Cats in the Cradle” still tug at my heart, while bringing tears to my eyes. Such beautifully written lyrics could describe anyone’s life present-day or past.

“Taxi” was Chapin’s first single. He had his taxi driver’s license in New York City and worked as a driver for six months in Long Beach, New York. Sandy Chapin, who was married to Harry from 1968 until his death in 1981, told Songfacts the story: “He had been working in film, that was how he made his living. Harry’s plan at the time was to make enough money in five or six months that he would not have to work for five or six months, and during which time he would write screenplays. And then, the money did run out and he went back to look for some work in film, but there wasn’t anything available. He needed a job, he wanted to still to be able to write, so he applied for a cab license. And I was something like eight months pregnant. I felt very positive about it, because I thought, wow, it would be a great experience, because people in cabs will tell him stories, and he’ll get all kinds of characters for songs. 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.”

  The song is set in San Francisco. Sandy Chapin explains: “The song was moved to the West Coast from the East Coast. His life, college and otherwise, his work, was all on the East Coast. Even his film work was on the East Coast, except for that one year in California when he was doing commercials.

When I would look through Harry’s notebooks, I was amazed at how little editing there was. He would start jotting down ideas for a song or a story, and then decide later that because of the rhyming or the rhythm or whatever it was, that San Francisco would be a good place. He probably just came up with the line, ‘It was raining hard in Frisco,’ and went on from there. There were some notebooks where he jotted down 4 or 6 lines that he might come back to later and use. But there are other notebooks where he just sat down and wrote the song.”

  This song is about a cab driver who picks up a passenger who turns out to be his former lover. They broke up so she could be an actress and he could learn to fly. In the end, he realizes they both got their wish, as she acts like she is happy, and he flies in his taxi by getting stoned. Eight years later, Chapin followed this up with another hit, appropriately titled “Sequel,” which continued the chronicles of the former lover’s Harry and Sue.

Chapin utilized harmonic techniques on the guitar to simulate the sound of rain at the song’s beginning and end, thus musically reflecting the lyric “It was raining hard in ‘Frisco.” 

 Out of high School, Chapin entered the Air Force Academy to “Learn to Fly.” He quit during his freshmen year.

Song Lyrics –

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, she 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

Whoa, 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
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


Credit: Songfacts.com

Video Credit: Youtube.com

Photo credit: Yahoo.com/images

8 thoughts on “Harry Chapin – “Taxi”