Troubadour Harry Chapin’s tragic death is now part of musical history, but his music — and philanthropic contributions — remain very much alive. The keeper of Chapin’s legacy, Stuart Markus, a fixture on Long Island’s folk and acoustic scene, is committed to keeping Chapin’s musical heritage vital and ongoing among musicians and fans.
The classically trained Markus, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y, and is now based in Malverne, remains passionate about Chapin’s music and his humanitarian zeal. He’s ready to share Chapin’s legacy yet again at “Just Wild About Harry,” the tribute concert — now in its 10th year — that he organizes at Eisenhower Park.
Despite the 32 years that have passed since Harry Chapin’s shocking death on the Long Island Expressway en route to a performance in Eisenhower Park in July 1981, Chapin’s music still resonates with his fans and the music community.
That concert that he intended to give now has become a memorial concert and food drive, featuring a rotating slate of local musicians and bands. It is being held this year on Monday, July 22, at the theater in Eisenhower Park that was named in Chapin’s honor, where it has taken place for the past nine years.
The 40 musicians involved take great pride in playing Chapin’s songs for the cause to which he dedicated himself. “It’s as if the Long Island music community comes together to give the concert he had meant to,” Markus said. A commemorative plaque was dedicated in his honor at the concert in 2010.
“I never expected to be doing this for 10 years now,” Markus said, reflecting on a decade’s worth of producing the event. “Each year there is a flurry of activity leading up to it, my stomach is in a knot and I vow that it will be my last year, then it turns into such a wonderful concert and everyone has a great time, which is a tribute to what a great man Chapin was.”
“His songs are about people that anyone can identify with and that is why they remain so popular. His songs make you care about the characters and in turn fellow human beings.”