Taxi (song)

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Taxi - Harry Chapin.jpg
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Heads & Tales
ReleasedMarch 1972
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Harry Chapin
Producer(s)Jac Holtzman
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Could You Put Your Light On, Please"

"Taxi" is a song written and performed by Harry Chapin from his 1972 album Heads & Tales. Chapin debuted the song on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1972, which was followed by many calls and telegrams sent from viewers to NBC demanding that Chapin return to the show. It was the first time in the show's history that host Johnny Carson brought a performer back the very next night for an encore performance.[citation needed] "Taxi" thus front-lined his defining work. The single helped establish Chapin's musical style and fame, and as a result, many Chapin items featured taxi-related imagery. WMEX DJ Jim Connors is credited with discovering Chapin and pushing "Taxi" to #24 on the Billboard charts, where it would last 16 weeks on the Hot 100, in the United States. Billboard ranked it as the #85 song for 1972.[1] In Canada, the song reached #5.[2]


The song tells the story of Harry, a cab driver, on a rainy night in San Francisco. He picks up a woman wearing an expensive gown, his last fare for the night, and she asks to be taken to her home at 16 Parkside Lane. Harry finds the woman familiar at first, but she seems not to recognize him until after she looks at him in the rear-view mirror and glances at his hack license. It is then revealed that she is Sue, an old flame from Harry's youth.

In flashback, Harry remembers how he "used to take her home in [his] car" and also how they "learned about love in the back of a Dodge," adding, "The lesson hadn't gone too far." Sue had wanted to be an actress, while Harry was going to learn to fly (hinting at Chapin's earlier real-life experience at the United States Air Force Academy). Their relationship ended when Sue "took off to find the footlights" and Harry "took off to find the sky."

The middle section of the song features the bass player, John Wallace, in falsetto, singing the following lines:

Baby's so high, that she's skying
Yes she's flying, afraid to fall
I'll tell you why baby's crying
Cause she's dying, aren't we all...

The above lyrics were spoken by Harry over John's falsetto vocal on an early mix of the song released only to radio stations.

Harry arrives at Sue's home where she offers to get together with him sometime, with Harry knowing "it'd never be arranged." Sue pays him a $20 bill for "a $2.50 fare" and says, "Harry, keep the change." Harry has mixed feelings about this gesture, but "stashed the bill in [his] shirt." As Sue walks into her "handsome home," Harry finally realizes that "[they'd] both gotten what [they'd] asked for, such a long, long time ago": Sue is now "acting happy" in a loveless marriage, while he is "flying" by driving a taxi and "getting stoned."

Chart performance[edit]


Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Sequel (album)
B-side"I Finally Found It Sandy"
GenrePop rock
LabelBoardwalk Records
Songwriter(s)Harry Chapin
Producer(s)Howard Albert
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Flowers Are Red"
"Remember When the Music"

In 1980, Chapin wrote and composed a follow-up to the song entitled "Sequel," which he released on the album of the same name. Written in the same style as "Taxi," it continues the story of Harry and Sue with them meeting again ten years later. Released as a single, "Sequel" peaked one position higher, but lasted two weeks less, on the Hot 100 than "Taxi". Chapin joked that, if he wrote a third act to the song, it would be called "Hearse" so he could kill off the characters. Chapin died seven months after "Sequel" peaked.

In the song, Harry, who has now become a successful musician, has returned to San Francisco for a concert there, and has "eight hours to kill before the show." He decides to take a taxi (after rejecting options of "taking a limousine / Or at least a fancy car") to Sue's 16 Parkside Lane address only to discover, from the butler who answers the door, that she no longer lives there. The butler gives Harry the address to which Sue's letters are being forwarded, which Harry gives to the cab driver along with money for another fare. The address proves to be that of a rundown brownstone apartment, where Sue once again recognizes Harry:

And she said, “How are you, Harry?
“Haven't we played this scene before?”
I said, “It's so good to see you, Sue
“Had to play it out just once more...
“Play it out just once more.”

Sue proves to have nothing, but she is now happy with herself. Invited to Harry's concert, she rejects the invitation by admitting that she works at night. Harry is otherwise cryptic about their reunion, urging listeners not to ask for details by saying, "If I answered at all I'd lie." The song ends with:

I guess it's a sequel to our story
From the journey 'tween heaven and hell
With half the time thinking of what might have been
And half thinkin' just as well.

I guess only time will tell.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1980–81) Peak
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 37
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[8] 23
U.S. Cash Box Top 100 34


According to the liner notes in The Essentials: Harry Chapin, Chapin was inspired to write the song when he happened upon an old lover, as the cabbie in the song does. Chapin was merely on his way to a taxi license examination in New York City, not San Francisco. Chapin also stated that "Taxi" is only "about sixty-percent true".

However, according to Chapin's biography Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story, by Peter M. Coan, this song was based on a relationship that Chapin had with a Bennett Junior College student named Clare MacIntyre, the inspiration for Sue. They met when they were both camp counselors at neighboring summer camps during their college years. Clare MacIntryre-Ross died in March 2016.[9]

On the contrary, when asked by John Denver about the song, Chapin stated that he read a newspaper article about his ex-girlfriend who had married a rich man, the same week that his taxi license was supposed to go through. He said that he had a dream that he would be driving the cab in a big city and he'd stop and pick up a lady, and they would look at each other and know that they both sold out their dreams. According to Chapin, he wrote the song then. However, the week the license was supposed to come through, he got a big film job and didn't have to drive the cab.


  • William Shatner performed "Sequel" on the daytime TV variety talk show Dinah!.
  • During Chapin's later concerts, Big John Wallace would sing the song's first verse in the form of a disco-style as the third alternate ending to "30,000 Pounds of Bananas."
  • The song is covered by Mandy Patinkin on his album, Experiment.
  • The song is covered by Lee Hazlewood on his album, I'll be Your Baby Tonight.


  1. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  2. ^ a b "Top Singles". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 27 May 1972. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  3. ^ Go-Set National Top 40, 2 September 1972
  4. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  5. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  6. ^ "Top 100 Singles". Cash Box. 20 May 1972. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". 1973. Retrieved 12 October 2015. Billboard Year-End Hot 100 chart for 1972
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  9. ^ "Va. woman who inspired Chapin's hit 'Taxi' dies at 73, reports say". 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-10-07.