Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something Image

Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something

By Sabina Dana Plasse | October 16, 2020

Harry Chapin’s long-lasting impression on music and humanity has never been more appreciated than it is today, especially with his deep connection to people through his music and his relentless desire to end world hunger. If you have ever felt close to Harry Chapin through his music, words, and voice, as so many do, you will feel even more fulfilled by Rick Korn’s Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something.

Korn paints an incredible portrait of Harry Chapin. From his birthplace in Greenwich Village to his death at the age of 38 from a tractor-trailer collision on the Long Island Expressway only hours before he was supposed to perform a free concert with an expected crowd of 25,000 at Eisenhower Park in Long Island. Close-ups and pans of Harry singing and performing combined with black and white stills, archival film, family photos, and film clips, as well as a plethora of Harry’s performances including those with his brothers along with present-day interviews of family, friends, musicians, and others, reveal intensive research and editing by Korn mirroring Harry’s storytelling gift.

A New York son, Harry was always surrounded by his creative and intellectual family and friends from Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights, and the Long Island Cares food bank that bears his name. Harry’s brothers, children, relatives, and of course, his wife Sandy were an enormous part of his life; even if his harried lifestyle kept him late or missing appointments, they all surrounded him and continue to follow his lead for his beliefs. Footage of his young son, Josh, joining him on stage and at his funeral is priceless, as are the clips from the performers who loved him.

“…Harry was always surrounded by his creative and intellectual family and friends…”

With an incredible amount of found and existing archival footage and audio recordings, Korn created an in-depth look into Harry’s entire life from his childhood through his last days of performing and unending philanthropy. A deeply devoted and civic-minded Harry felt compelled to make it his life-long journey to end world hunger until his tragic death. A selfless man, Harry relentlessly performed concerts and benefits for hunger awareness, seemingly unaware of his financial obligations.

Many interviews, including those with Billy Ayres, a radio host who co-founded Why Hunger with Harry, tell the story of Harry’s advocacy to end world hunger. Harry was persistent in his pursuit of urging President Jimmy Carter, who was convinced, to establish a commission on world hunger. Korn notes, along with interviews with Sir Bob Geldof that Harry influenced Hands Across America, Live Aid, and We Are the World, all multi-artist arrangements for awareness to end world hunger. Using classic documentary techniques, given the endless amount of existing material, Korn reveals on an almost personal level the time and place of Harry’s life, performances, and activism, that was Harry’s short time on earth and the work he accomplished.

Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something (2020)

Directed: Rick Korn


Starring: Sandy Chapin, Tom Chapin, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Benatar, Pete Seeger, Robert Lamm, Sir Bob Geldof, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something Image

"…never has Harry Chapin's work been so important."

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