Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Singer/songwriter Jen Chapin is the daughter of the late folk-rock artist Harry Chapin, who is best-known for his 1974 smash "Cats in the Cradle." Jen Chapin's work is quite different from her father's; while he was primarily a folk-rocker, she is much more difficult to categorize. Folk-rock has influenced her, but jazz, soul, funk, pop, and blues have also had a major impact on the New Yorker (who has stated that her taste in music ranges from Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan to Cassandra Wilson, Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, and A Tribe Called Quest). Some of Chapin's introspective, probing work could be described as jazzy folk-pop; some of it could be called adult alternative and some of it has strong R&B leanings. However you categorize Chapin, it is obvious that she is very much her own person. But as different as Chapin's songs are from her father's, she has followed in his footsteps in at least two respects: First, she pursued a career in music and second, she shares his interest in social causes (especially combating world hunger). Born on Long Island in 1971, Chapin grew up in the New York City suburbs. She was only ten when, on July 16, 1981, her father was killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway at the age of 38. In 1989, an 18-year-old Chapin left Long Island to attend Brown University in Providence, RI. While she was a student at Brown, Chapin traveled to Zimbabwe and Mexico to study international relations; then, she returned to Providence and graduated from Brown with a degree in that field. It was around that time that Chapin really became serious about pursuing a career in music and she turned down a spot in a master's program in teaching so she could move to Boston and study music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Although Chapin had been singing since childhood, she felt that attending Berklee (where she studied improvisation and jazz harmony, among other things) marked the first time she seriously identified herself as a musician. Since moving back to the New York area in 1995, Chapin has done her share of music teaching; at a Brooklyn high school, she has taught a course that she developed called "The History of Black Music." That is in addition to becoming quite active on the Manhattan club scene, where she has often performed with jazz bassist Stephan Crump. In 1997, Chapin released a self-titled EP on her own Purple Chair Music; she went on to record Live at the Bitter End (her first full-length album) for Purple Chair in 1999 and Open Wide (a duet with Crump) for her label in 2001. When Chapin isn't doing music-related things, she is heavily involved in social causes. Chapin heads the board of directors of World Hunger Year (WHY), a non-profit organization that her father co-founded in 1975.