West Oak Lane songwriter down but never out

Enduring a great deal of adversity in his life, West Oak Lane musician Horace Harrington is committed to inspiring others through music.

The 62-year-old is not able to work due to increasing complications with a hernia, finger cramps, arthritis and a stomach ulcer. But if anyone can overcome these ailments and continue to lead a productive life, it’s Harrington.

While he is not a household name in the music industry, and currently does not perform anywhere due to his hardships, he still uses his songs to paint a path for others.

Rough upbringing

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Originally from Northeast Philadelphia, Harrington grew up in the foster system and he said he was often abused by those who’d been entrusted with his care.

In 1982, after years of living with three different foster families, Harrington said he was shot in the stomach and the liver because of a mistaken identity. A man believed he was someone else and approached him in a bar; Harrington said he was able to escape by using a cast that was on his arm as a result of a recent car crash to knock his assailant down.

Music provided a steady influence that helped inspire him to persevere.

“Music was always an outlet for me,” Harrington said. “It helped you to forget about a lot of the things that happened to you that weren’t right.”

Coping mechanism

Harrington said music allowed him to cope with such issues as missing his parents and daily struggles in the foster system. He would bang on pots and pans until his foster family eventually bought him a set of drums. His mother and father, now deceased, had both been singers, which inspired him to learn music.

Music eventually became a means of both spiritual and financial support for Harrington, who wrote jingles for several commercials, including one for the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp.

“I wrote my first song at age six,” Harrington added. “I used to sing about how I missed my mom.”

Positive reinforcement

Following the death of his wife Bertha in 2001, he turned to music once again for a reminder to stay positive and keep working hard. He now employs that message when dealing with his current afflictions.

“Although I have things that stop me from working, I’m still here, and I’m still alive,” Harrington said. “My songs are about inspiration because that’s what I love to share. There’s always someone worse off than you, and you can be a guiding light for someone.”

Harrington, who volunteers at the Eva Donaldson School of Music, has also learned the importance of forgiveness, especially for those who hurt him in the past.

Although Harrington’s physical condition prevents him from working, he is currently writing a song titled “Agree to Disagree.” Harrington said this song is about accepting other’s opinions, and enjoying life and the people in it.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal