A CELEBRATION OF ROCK LEGEND AND HUMANITARIAN HARRY CHAPIN ALSO SHOWCASES A SOUTH AVENUE RESTAURANT, BAR, AND CABARET’S REVAMP

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN

Forty years ago, when Richard Nicotra was student government president at St. John’s University, tasked with booking high profile entertainment for an on campus event, the budding hotelier scored big when he locked in a performance with the Harry Chapin Band.

“Both Lois [his wife] and I have been fans of Harry Chapin forever,” Nicotra noted, detailing the couple’s affinity for Chapin’s folk/pop blending. “People who follow him know that he was killed tragically in a car accident in 1981 on the Long Island Expressway. I could tell you where I was when JFK was shot and when Elvis Presley died, and when I heard the news of Harry Chapin’s death, I remember exactly what I was doing at that moment as well. That’s how much his music meant to me.”

Chapin, who recorded a total of 11 albums from 1972 until his death, and with all 14 singles he released charting nationally, sold over 16 million records worldwide. Also a dedicated humanitarian, Chapin fought to end world hunger, and was a key participant in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977. He is credited with being among the most politically and socially active American performers of the 1970s, and in 1987 was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work.

On April 5, almost four decades to the day since Nicotra originally booked Chapin at SJU, the restaurateur will reprise the show, hosting Chapin’s brother, Steve, and two original band members at Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Bar & Cabaret at the Hilton Garden Inn.

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Chapin was a wonderful humanitarian who supported efforts to end world hunger,” Nicotra said. “He would donate the proceeds from so many of his shows to the causes that he supported. And his music was sheer poetry. I’m so excited to have this band here at Lorenzo’s. Lois and I will be sitting at a table in the corner, reminiscing about hearing these same songs together 40 years ago.”

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Featuring Steve Chapin, “Big John” Wallace (a bassist and singer who became a backup performer for Harry Chapin), drummer Howard Fields, and longtime guitarist Doug Walker, the band is set to perform favorites like “Cats in the Cradle,” “Taxi,” and “Mail Order Annie” while sharing back stories about the tunes.

The show, which starts at 9 p.m. (following a 7 p.m. dinner), will also serve as a showcase for the venue’s new look.

“We recently finished some major renovations,” Nicotra said, detailing the ballroom’s new carpets and wallpaper, several new fireplaces in the Lobby Lounge, and an elaborate chandelier that took 18 weeks to construct. “We’ve also reconfigured our check in desk and revamped Lorenzo’s. There’s a lot going on here.”

Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Bar & Cabaret
1100 South Avenue, lorenzosdining.com