Lee Chapman Bio

 I’m from Joliet, Illinois, near Chicago. My sister Pat and I sang South Pacific and Oklahoma while helping mom clean house and in bed at night until dad yelled at us to shut up and go to sleep. I learned English at St. Ray’s and sang in the Men and Boy’s Choir. I wrote my first poems at age 15 (they were terrible). My brother-in-law Ken bought me a guitar. I took lessons from Iva Wellman. Then it happened: the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. Like thousands of other kids I re-combed my hair and started trying to write songs. Math replaced Catholicism at Joliet West High School.

 

 At the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana I majored in architecture, then math, and finally computer science, and finally finished a song or two. I fell in love with Joni Mitchell. Did my master’s in computer music. Performed at the Red Herring coffeehouse. (Once I had to adjust my tempi to match the clog dancing on the floor above. Dust rained down with each stomp.) I came in second in a talent contest, defeated by a female stripper.

 

 Living in Chicago high-rises, with a two-block commute and no car, I performed my songs at Somebody Else’s Troubles, but mostly worked at Marina City programming accounts receivable in FORTRAN and COBOL. I saw “Side by Side by Sondheim” at Water Tower Place and became a life-long acolyte.

 

 I moved to Wheaton (the protestant Vatican) to help physicists smash atoms at Fermilab. There I joined WSGA (the West Suburban Gay Association) and started dating. Bought a townhouse in Naperville. Met my future husband, Bob. My travel writing was featured on “Small Celebrations,” WNRB 93.3 in Wausau, WI, hosted by my dear friend Barbara Vroman.

 

 Moved in with Bob in his house in DeKalb. Did computer music at Northern Illinois University. Performed computer music, wrote a piece for and played in the Gamelan, and did some crazy performance art. I took a class in Chicago from my harmonica hero Corky Siegel. His favorite song of mine is “784.5 JOP,” about Janis Joplin, whom he knew. I recorded my first CD, Living Alone, and tried to be a performing musician, often with Bob, for a couple of years. I learned that there is nothing I’d rather do less than go to a bar at night and play songs with no one listening.

 

 We moved to Indiana in 2002.  “A Crazy Quilt of Bloomington Songs,” my voice and piano settings of poems by Bloomington poets, was performed at Bloomington’s John Waldron Arts Center in 2005. I recorded Piano Brevities and Piano Depravities, collections of computer-performed synthesized piano pieces. (One of these pieces was used in a movie but I’m afraid to watch it—it might be a porno.) I performed my poetry quite a bit, usually accompanied by Bob. He can make wonderful cat sounds on a hurdy-gurdy. I started recording songs again.

 

 We moved to Annapolis, Maryland, in 2014. Here I write essays and songs and have vowed to stop writing poetry. (When I tell my best friend Jim I’ve written a new song he says, “Great! When can I hear it?” When I tell him I’ve written a poem he just groans.) I record in Maryland now and still occasionally in Indiana. I’ve released two more CDs of songs, Non-Miscellaneous and Chicago River. I’m working on the next, Great Men of the Second Millenium. After that will come Real Life and Hey, Sailor.

 

 Lee Chapman, Singer/Songwriter     • 1339 Sweet Pea Path, Crownsville, MD 21032  •  812-606-4168      lee@brutalreality.org