If, as the pundits predict, the election of Ronald Reagan heralds a new wave of conservatism, it could be good news for the waning career of singer Harry Chapin. Chapin, the rumpled raconteur of the Pepsi generation, is the perfect, reassuring voice for those former liberals who want to come home.
His concert last night in Constitution Hall made innocuous jibes at the Establishment with natty nostalgic numbers that recalled a time when there were things to "believe in." On songs like "I Miss America" (dedicated to Bert Parks, Woody Hayes, Fred Silverman and Chapin's 8-year-old son), he sang of cultural values run amok and of dreams of better times.
Chapin did have a certain melodic flair, and many of his arrangements were intricate and deftly crafted. Even a soggy bit of romantic slush, like "And the Baby Never Cries" was affecting despite the heavy-handedness of its lyrics. Yet for all of the lovely cello lines and hymn-like harmonies and Chapin's distinctive vibrato, the music was staid, predictable and ultimately uninspiring.
Perhaps the times have caught up with Harry Chapin. That might be encouraging for him, but it's a real snooze for the rest of us.