Written by Harry Chapin
Performed by Harry Chapin
Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest.
And of all the cleaning shops around he'd made his the best.
But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes.
He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows.
His friends and neighbors praised the voice that poured out from his throat.
They said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats.

Fall on your knees!
But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
Oh, hear the angel voices!
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
O night divine
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
O night, O night divine
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

His friends kept working on him to try music out full time.
A big debut and rave reviews, a great career to climb.
Finally they got to him, he would take the fling.
A concert agent in New York agreed to have him sing.
And there were plane tickets, phone calls, money spent to rent the hall.
It took most of his savings but he gladly used them all.


The evening came, he took the stage, his face set in a smile.
And in the half filled hall the critics sat watching on the aisle.
But the concert was a blur to him, spatters of applause.
He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.
But the critics were concise, it only took four lines.
But no one could accuse them of being over kind.

(spoken) Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his
Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately
his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.
His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
consistently interesting.
(sung) Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.

He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends.
Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed.
He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes.
Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.
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    This has always been a special favorite of mine.  Great story, great music, and I do believe my all-time favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night, and the way it is used as the background in the chorus here is a fabulous demonstration of Chapin's genius.
     Despite the somewhat depressing ending to the story, I think it actually can be very inspirational.  Some things we do to earn the accolades and admiration of others.  But sometimes, the most satisfying things we do are wholly for ourselves; things we never share with others.  Mr. Tanner didn't stop singing, after all.  He just stopped singing publically.  Singing still made him feel happy and good and made him whole without the praise and encouragement of his friends. 
     We all face setbacks, and often what good we do accomplish does not get the recognition it deserves.  But it is still good, and we should keep on singing.
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