Mary Chapin Carpenter
19th Paternal cousin, once removed.
Sometimes you hear a name for years, and you think that you know that person, only to find out later that you really don't know much about that person at all. That was the case when I discovered that I was a distant cousin of Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Mary and I are 19th cousins, 1x removed. Our common ancestor is my 19th Great Grandfather, Prince John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III and Queen Philippa. Prince John was Mary's 18th Great Grandfather. However, our lineage overlaps more than once, and this is the most recent common grandparent I have found.
When I made this discovery while researching my paternal lineage, I had mistakenly thought that Mary was a folk artist. For some reason I did not even realize that I had a number of Mary's songs on my phone and I know most of them by heart (having sang along with them hundreds of times while behind the wheel - alone in the car, of course!). I was actually embarrassed that I didn't instantly recognize this incredibly talented singer and composer!
When I did do some extra research about my newly found distant cousin, I was even more impressed than I had previously been with her music. Mary was born in 1958 to my 18th cousin 2x removed, Mary Bowie Robertson and her husband, Chapin Carpenter Jr. in Princeton, New Jersey. According to the information that I could find, Mary had the usual interests in music that most children and teens do and she played the guitar throughout high school, but apparently never had the performance bug bite her like it does many other teens.
This changed after her father prompted her to perform at a local bar's open-mic night. Later she would meet John Jennings, a guitarist who would become her producer and long time collaborator.
Mary's first album was "Hometown Girl" and was produced by Jennings and released in 1987. The release was eventually picked up by Columbia Records and Mary was promoted as a country singer, something which she found disconcerting as she didn't want to be labelled in any one genre. I agree with Mary on this point, as her songs cross all genres, and she has an amazing vocal range and talent that lets her sing different songs in different ways. Maybe this was why I had her confused with more of a Joan Baez type folk singer?
I'm not sure when I first discovered Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs, but I do remember each of these:
"I Feel Lucky"
"Down at the Twist and Shout"
"Shut Up and Kiss Me"
"I Take My Chances"
"He Thinks He'll Keep Her"
"You Win Again"
"Girls With Guitars"
I'm sure that there are dozens of other songs that Mary has written that I may have heard but cannot readily recall, but one thing is certain, there is no mistaking her incredible vocals and talent with the acoustic guitar.
Since discovering that Mary Chapin Carpenter is a distant cousin of mine, I have had the pleasure to hear her sing live on Twitter. Mary, like many other artists during this time of self-quarantine, has begun to entertain her fans from her home. Mary's vocals and guitar playing are exceptional, and even outside of a formal sound studio setting, her songs are amazing. Oh, and she has an adorable dog named Angus (golden lab I believe) who often joins her in these kitchen performances! If you have not yet caught one of Mary's at-home performances, be sure to do so soon.
Like all of my other famous distant relatives, I have not met Mary, nor do I share her guitar playing, song-writing or vocal talents, Still, I am thankful for the entertainment that she has provided, and I am proud to call her (and Angus!) part of my family.