Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something Image

The film indoctrinates his Grammy Award-winning song, Cats in the Cradle, as one of the most celebrated ballads of all time. It presents a hefty list of musicians, performers, and songwriters across all music genres who deem it so. The song, originally written by Sandy, became a verb and a shorthand in the American vernacular. The song’s vast reach is something Korn reveals in a montage of clips from The Simpsons to a more recent mention by Governor Cuomo during a COVID-19 briefing.

Selling over 16 million albums, Harry’s legendary hits include Cats in the CradleTaxi, and Circle, and he penned many more. Artists and activists loved him equally, and the musician made deep connections to people who believed in his mission to end world hunger. Harry’s relationship with his brothers was long-lasting. He inspired Billy Joel, who opened for him at the beginning of his career, and he befriended Pat Benatar. Harry also negotiated the highest record deal at the time, with Elektra Records. Founder, Jac Holzman, describes the intense bidding war with Clive Davis and Columbia Records to sign Harry. Holzman was deeply touched by Harry’s music and, like so many people featured in Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something, could barely hold the tears back reminiscing and recollecting the moments of working with him.

“…personal and universal, all at the same time.”

Harry Chapin’s journey to achieve his desired status is a fascinating depiction of an American artist, one that Korn constructs with great thought. The director lines up an incredible array of photographs, film footage, and appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Pete Seeger, Sir Bob Geldof, Kenny Rogers, Graham Nash, Pat Benatar, Darryl DMC McDaniels, Robert Lamm, Richie Havens, and Harry Belafonte. Acclaimed documentarian, Richard Leacock, Harry’s uncle, undoubtedly gave Korn treasured footage and inspired Harry in documentary filmmaking, as he received an Academy Award nomination in 1968 for Best Documentary Feature for The Legendary Champions.

In these pandemic times, never has Harry Chapin’s work been so important. Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something premieres on World Food Day, which should be a reminder to everyone to never give up on something you believe in. As Harry said, “We all have the potential to move the world. And the world is ready to be moved!” His words continue to live on.

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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