Thursday, March 24, 2016

I stashed the bill in my shirt

She was never gonna be an actress and he was never going to learn to fly, since her father had an airline and didn't want him hanging around his pride and joy.

He never drove a cab, but he came very close, close enough to turn a broken heart into a hit record, and what better way to mend a broken heart than to write a song called "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"

But we're not talking about the Bee Gees.  We're talking about that looooooooong song "Taxi" by Harry Chapin, the one about the guy who is pushing a cab around town and picks up his ex, a rich girl who lives at "16 Parkside Lane."  You can tell she lives in Swankytown, just from that address.  Otherwise, Harry would have written that she lives at 16 Woetown Avenue.

In the song, the couple recognize each other and ruminate on what might have been. But they're star-crossed lovers, see, and it's just not going to work out.  Click on the song and listen, if you don't remember it or never heard it or want to hear it again since the last time you heard it was on WLPL in 1972, sandwiched between The DeFranco Family and The Chi-Lites.

The lady's name in real life was Clare Alden MacIntyre-Ross, out of Scarsdale, N.Y.  She died March 9 of complications from a stroke at age 73, having spent her final years in Falls Church, Va.

Harry Chapin was a folkie singer/songwriter from Brooklyn.  The two met as summer camp counselors in the 60s.  Her dad was Malcolm MacIntyre, a big shot lawyer who ran Eastern Airlines from 1959 to 1963.  Much to her father's dismay, Miss Clare, daughter of privilege, took up with a wrinkled, denim-clad troubadour.

And you know how those things go.

During one of their breakups, Harry's musical fortunes were taking a dip in Lake Unemployed, and so he got a hack license in New York and was to start driving on a certain Monday.  The weekend before, he fretted over whether Clare would be outside some tony bistro and hail a cab he was driving.

But, as life works out, over that weekend he picked up two music jobs and never sat behind the wheel of a cab for real.  But he still wrote the song, based on his feelings about seeing Clare, or "Susan," as he called her in the song.

Harry Chapin's career in the spotlight began when "Taxi" hit the charts in 1972 and came to an end in 1981 when he was killed in a highway wreck on the Long Island Expressway.

Life took Clare to Argentina with her first husband.  By the late 70s she was a securities sales executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert, becoming one of the first women in such a position. She married a Washington lawyer, David Ross, and was forced into early retirement by rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments.  

Friends said that Harry never got over his first love, nor did he ever write a better song than "Taxi."  He did have a bigger hit in 1974 when "Cat's In The Cradle" went to #1, but that will have to be a story for another day, because my cab is here.


Anonymous said...

I love this song!!!! Hadn't listened to it for ages, then had the urge to yesterday...."I stashed the bill in my shirt" - always one of my favourite lines in a song. Looked up the lyrics and found your blog - good stuff!!!!Thanks for the information!


Mark said...

Nice to hear from you, Tamara!

Tom Quirk said...

I maintained a somewhat difficult email correspondence with Claire a few years back. I wanted to know her feelings on The Holly Ball that she attended in 1960. Turns out she had some hard feelings about her brother regarding that night. But she treated me better when she found out I was a Special Education Teacher. Apparently she had a degree in Music Therapy. She was pretty adamant that most of the people she knew from Scarsdale accomplished a lot of good in life.