Providence Was Home to Folk and Country’s Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter and I are the same age. She was born on February 21, 1958, in Princeton, New Jersey. I entered the world just three weeks later in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Chapin is one of America's great storytellers. In fact, the Academy of Country Music recently presented her with its coveted Poet's Award for 2023, which honors excellence in songwriting.
What is interesting about being the same age as the ACM's Poet Award recipient is that our paths have shared many of the same milestones. We came of age at the same time, so many of the events that shaped her life also impacted mine.
Much of the material Mary Chapin Carpenter has written reflects her life's journey. "Stones in the Road" is a song about growing up in the turbulent 1960s and '70s that is so relatable to anyone there at the time.
The album of the same name, Chapin's fifth studio album, was her first and only No. 1 Country album on the Billboard charts and contained her first and only No. 1 Hot Country Singles hit, "Shut Up and Kiss Me." The album won a Grammy for Best Country Album in 1994.
Chapin was born to Chapin Carpenter, Jr., an executive for Life magazine, and folk singer Mary Bowie Robertson.
The family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1974, where Chapin played folk clubs. After high school, she attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While a freshman in 1976, Chapin performed at clubs in the Providence area and the Brown coffeehouse on campus.
In 1989, the Washington Post's Richard Harrington wrote that Chapin's first public performance was an uncomfortable experience, "I couldn't even talk between songs because I thought I was going to barf."
Chapin graduated from Brown in 1981 with a degree in American Civilization.
Mary Chapin Carpenter earned numerous awards and nominations over the years. She was married to Timmy Smith from 2002 to 2010. She has no children.