Can this feeling that we have together Ooh, suddenly exist between Did this meeting of our minds together Ooh, happen just today, somewhere?
Can you tell me, please don’t tell me It really doesn’t matter anyhow
This song was the first single released from the 1969 debut album of Chicago the band, then known as The Chicago Transit Authority. Written by Robert Lamm, it was about a romantic relationship Lamm had from 1967 and 68, hence the title of the song.
The horn arrangement from James Pankow is different from their later efforts. Here they are playing throughout with no rests for the horn players. It is a rock style like no other at that point in time.
After the band had some success with other singles, the tune was re-released in 1971 with I’m A Man on the “B-side.”
For more on the B-side, see “I’m A Man,” SERENPIPITY (teepee12.com) August 30, 2019.
The first big concert that I attended in my life was at DePaul University Alumni Hall on May 13, 1971. Three DePaul alumni and two other DePaul music students, along with a Roosevelt University music student and a local musician were making it in the big time and were coming home to play a benefit. The concert ticket prices were a rather high 3.50 and 6.50 US dollars. I am sure I went for the cheaper ticket. I had been to many Blue Demon basketball games in Alumni Hall so I knew there would not be a bad seat.
The band’s first album came out 50 years ago and was the self-titled The Chicago Transit Authority. While on tour the local transit authority actually threatened legal action if they kept the name. Thus the band name was shortened to just Chicago. The first album was doing OK, but did not garner any indivdual hits in the beginning. We didn’t care. We liked what we heard. Then something happened.
While the boys were on the road, their songs were finally making it from the FM album-oriented stations to AM radio. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Beginnings and Questions 67 & 68 climbed the charts. When Chicago the band made it back to Alumni Hall, they were rock stars, “rock with horns,” that is. The student newspaper noted at the time: “The memories are there, as are the photographs and copy, but no camera or pencil could have successfully captured the exchanges of expression between the members of the band and the proud, beaming faces in the front row of Alumni Hall – their parents.”
CTA, as we liked to call the album in Chicago, stayed on the Billboard 200 for a record 171 consecutive weeks. It was helped along by the success of the next album just titled “Chicago.” The album that followed in 1971 was “Chicago III.” Singles were making it to the AM radio where we could all hear them without buying the album. There are now 36 albums, the most recent being “Chicago Now,” or Chicago XXXVI.
I have seen Chicago in concert about a dozen times over the recent decades. Besides seeing them at the site of my high school and college gym, Alumni Hall (now gone), I also saw them at Poplar Creek (also gone), Soldier Field for a “Saturday in the Park,” Northerly Island, Chicago (more of a pennisula, methinks), Grant Park for “Taste of Chicago,” and several times in recent years at Ravinia Festival just north of Chicago.
Ravinia Festival is reported to be the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States. It began in Ravinia Park in 1905 and now runs from June to about mid September each year. The calendar of events typically contains 120 to 150 events. In addition to the 3400 seat outdoor pavillion, there is the 850 seat Martin Theater used largely for classical works, and the 450 seat Bennett Gordon Hall.
The outdoor concerts encompass every type of music from classical to jazz, show tunes to opera, rock to blues. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra finds a summer home there and they perform many outdoor shows. The popular site can fill the Pavillion and put thousands more on the lawn.
The original purpose of Ravinia Park was in support of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. This stop along the line was meant to provide a variety of amusements just a short distance from the city. The railroad went bankrupt in 1911 putting the festival in jeopardy. A group of local residents, including prominent Chicago businessmen, purchased the park and secured its future as an entertainment spectacular.
Ravinia Park is spread across 36 acres. Theaters, restaurants, souvenir stops, refreshment stands, a food court and beverage store help to fill the space. The lawn frequently includes a giant screen for all those who can not see the stage. The sound is great everywhere.
Unique to this venue is the picnic aspect of the lawn. Not only can you bring in your own lawn chair, but also your own food and drink. People arrive with coolers and picnic baskets. Even low tables to hold your candles, and wine and cheese are allowed. If you forget anything or did not want to carry items in, just run to the store on site.
I like to take the Union Pacific North line from the Ravensood stop at Lawrence Avenue, just two stops from downtown Chicago, right to the gate at Ravinia. The entrance is literally steps from the train. On the return, they hold the train until the show is over, including encores, and people have a chance to get to the platform. Don’t be too late or you may have to call an Uber! Of course, you can drive out there. The park has adequate parking if you did not make it to the train on time, or have a lot of picnic gear to bring.
Chicago the band is 10 now instead of just 7 they had at the start. There are two pecussionists, not a single drummer as in the beginnings. Replacing the multitalented Terry Kath following his death in 1978 added to their numbers as well. When Jason Scheff (Pete Cetera replacement in 1985) recently left the band, a bass player and singer were added to cover the parts. In fact, many lineup adjustments have been made through the years.
The current line up still provides the same great sound. Remarkably, original trombone player James Pankow and trumpet player Lee Loughnane are as stong as ever. Robert Lamm (from Roosevelt University), the heart and soul of Chicago, still delivers on multiple instruments and lead vocals.
Chicago the band is a major component of the soundtack of my life. Even though it is 50 years on, the music never gets old.
The British rock band The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 and had various success in the mid 1960s. One of their biggest hits was “I’m A Man” written by singer-songwriter and keyboardist for the band, Steve Winwood, and their record producer, Jimmy Miller. The song was released in 1967 and made the top ten in both the U.K. and U.S.
Winwood is on lead vocals and drives the Hammond organ with a strong beat. It was the last big hit for the group. Winwood and his older brother Muff (Mervyn, actually) left the band shortly after to pursue other interests. Steve formed the band Traffic and Muff joined the record industry as a talent scout and artistic developer.
The band The Chicago Transit Authority, later just “Chicago,” covered the song 50 years ago on their first album we know as CTA. It was not released as a single and found little success in the early going. It was, however, a band favorite in concert.
When Chicago started to earn success and singles were hitting the charts, “I’m A Man” came out as the B-Side to “Questions 67 and 68.” Radio stations were playing both sides of the record. The song even did as well in the U.K. as the original.
Today, Chicago continues to play the song in concert. It is an extended version with a long break in the middle for the percussionists to show off their talents as the other band members literally take a break.
The version below is with the incomparable Terry Kath on guitar and lead vocals for the first verse. The entire Tanglewood 1970 concert from which this cut is taken is available on YouTube — for free.
You might be able to guess my vote for best if you have been following us here.
Perhaps you did not know we have a National Poetry month. It has been celebrated each year since 1996. It is a way to honor the genre that gets little notice outside of high school and college Literature classes. Events are organized. “Poetry slams” are encountered. Bookstores feature poetry. Literate Presidents provide proclamations. For many, it is an important spotlight for this literary art form.
In high school we learned all about the literary devices that are important to many poems. It is not just end rhyme that is important, as many poems do not include this. It is also alliteration, that is the repetition of initial consonant sounds as in the title above.
There is also rhythm which helps the lines to flow or give it that musical quality. Of course, rhyme, particularly “end rhyme” also plays into this. I always thought that the Carol King Tapestry album demonstrated the use of sound devices quite well. In my mind it is one of the most brilliant and literate albums of all time.
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold
This brings me to a salient point for the non believers of the importance of poetry. Many will say they do not read poetry and in fact do not know any poems. Of course, this is not true. Most of us can recite poems without any problem at all. That is because we all have song lyrics embedded in our memory banks.
We sing along with songs on the radio and before long we know the lyrics. We play our favorite albums often and the words can be quickly recalled. We know these lyrics, that is the poems, better than any we encountered in school. While some could not think of a poem from class that they still know, they can recall song lyrics at a moment’s notice.
In college, at proms and dances, even at weddings Beginnings by Chicago was a popular song in the 1970s. I recall the song today just as I did back then. The poem has stayed with me and I am always happy to sing along. The words did not rely heavily on sound devices. It let the music and the meaning carry it.
When I’m with you It doesn’t matter where we are Or what we’re doing I’m with you, that’s all that matters
On the 1st of April, 1996 President Clinton told us: “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry.” He went on to tell us “creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture.”
If you listen to a lot of music on the radio, you may think that much of what you hear resembles bad fifth grade poetry with an obnoxious meter designed to drive you crazy. This is not unique to today’s song lyrics. After all our generation had “bubble gum music:”
Yummy, yummy, yummy I got love in my tummy and I feel like a-lovin’ you Love, you’re such a sweet thing, good enough to eat thing And it’s just a-what I’m gonna do
We will spare you the link to this Ohio Express “classic.” I will force you to search the internet for it yourself. Don’t worry, every bad song is immortalized on You Tube.
Aside from your favorite Carol King or Chicago song lyrics, there are many poets sending a message without music. These hard-working scribes need an extra push to catch the attention of the reading public. National poetry month is meant to help that along.
Did you know that the United States has an official poet? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, better known as the United States Poet Laureate, is Tracy K. Smith. The person serving in this capacity “seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”
The post was started in 1937 as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, but was changed by Congress in 1985 to its present title. The post has been held by such literary heavyweights as Robert Penn Warren, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, James Dickey, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. You may have read some of them in school.
I recall Frost from my school days. I always saw the importance of his work, The Road Not Taken, and probably appreciate it more now than I did then. You can support poetry this month by doing more than bad karaoke at the local inn. Read a poem, buy a book of poetry, listen to poems on Audible or some poetry site. You may find works that are more important than the lyrics to your favorite song.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
OK, you have really messed up this time and you do not know how to say you are sorry. After all, “I’m sorry” does not always work, especially if you have used it too much. You may have thought of every clever way to apologize but it just is not working. Even when you added in flowers and/or candy you are not getting the message across. Our advice to you is to add music.
You have probably heard the saying that “music soothes the savage beast (or mate),” so there is no harm in giving it a try. There are plenty of apology songs and if you are into Country and Western music, the possibilities may seem endless. The C&W world has a lot to apologize for apparently. There is a word of caution in our dishonorable mention, however. Sometimes nothing works well with someone like Madonna. She has “heard it all before.”
Here are my top choices to make up for your transgressions. If you have been really bad, I suggest you bookmark this page so you can come back as often as necessary. If one of these artists does not work for you, perhaps another will. After all that you have been through, something ought to work. And just as if I was planning it all along, that comment will help us to start our list off:
10. Hard To Say I’m Sorry, Chicago. The Peter Cetera and David Foster composition was a 1984 hit for the band which oddly enough only had two band members playing on the record. Foster elected to use studio musicians when recording the song. Cetera and Foster may never had said they were sorry, but the band ultimately decided to return to horn driven rock and roll. The song made it to number 1.
9. Purple Rain, Prince. You may not have thought of this 1984 hit as a song of regret, but listen again closely to the verses before you start shouting your way through the chorus while someone does bad karaoke. That karaoke person will be looking for an apology song soon, by the way. Purple Rain won an academy award for original song for the movie of the same name.
8. Sorry For The Stupid Things, Babyface. Kenneth Brian Edmonds, aka Babyface ( a nickname that stuck with him), had a big R&B hit with this 2003 release. “Sometimes I do stupid things to you, When I really don’t mean it all,” he exclaims in his lyric. His reason might not work for everyone, however. “Sometimes a man, Is gon’ be a man, It’s not an excuse, It’s just how it is.” So, maybe you better move on to the next one.
7. I’m Sorry, Brenda Lee. Fifteen year old Brenda Lee was probably never sorry she recorded this number one hit in 1960. There must be a lot to be sorry for in teenage love. The song caught on quickly, despite the record label’s reluctance to release it.
5. Baby Come Back, Player. “Any kinda fool could see” this was a number one hit for this band in 1977 and a great “apology” song.
4. We Are Young, fun. They may be trying to apologize in this 2012 hit, but they are young and might not have it quite right. Still, they can set the world on fire (perhaps).
3. Apologize, One Republic. Sometimes it’s just too late to Apologize as explained by song writer Ryan Tedder along with David Archuleta in the popular performance from American Idol.
2. Sorry, Justin Bieber. I’m sorry to say that Justin has made another one of my lists, and I am sorry I could not use the silly “official” video. Here Justin wants to know “Is it too late now to say sorry?” I am sorry that he might be lip syncing this “live” performance of the catchy hit.
1. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Elton John. “It’s a sad, sad, situation and getting more and more absurd.” That’s because “Sorry” seems to be the hardest word in the Elton John, Bernie Taupin hit from 1976.
In April of this year fans of Chicago the band got to see what they had been waiting for. Some thought the honor was deserved years ago, even decades. Now the classic rock and roll band has entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Along with a notable string of hits, the band has garnered a loyal following based on their annual tours. If you live in Chicago, you get the chance to see your favorites every year.
Of course the band has changed since its Beginnings. Terry Kath is gone. Peter Cetera left for a solo career. Danny Seraphine was asked to leave. Original woodwind player Walt Parazaider, the oldest of the group, does not appear regularly. In May longtime member and the replacement to Cetera, Jason Scheff, took a leave of absence for family health reasons. Scheff insisted he was not leaving the band. Last month, Chicago announced that Jeff Coffey, who had been filling in for Scheff, had officially joined the band. Characteristically, the band has little else to say on the topic. Next year will mark their 50th anniversary.
In 2014 Chicago, the band, did something most older bands are reluctant to do. They put out a new studio album of original music entitled “Chicago NOW.” Legendary bands with staying power such as Chicago make their living off their faithful fans at live performances and sales of older albums. They know that only a select handful of older bands can actually sell new singles and albums. The buying public for new music is mainly in the 13 to 34 age bracket and many of them tend to stream music rather than actually buy it. The main buyers of CDs are in the 45 and over crowd but they are buying “catalog” music, or that is to say, classics from their favorite artists of the past.
Studio time can be expensive, both in terms of the studio cost and the lost concert performance time. A touring band like Chicago, who spends most of the year on the road, does not like the idea of stopping for an extended length of time. But Chicago is not ready to stop composing and recording, so how do they tour and record? The answer came with a new recording system they call “The Rig.” They have pushed the technology forward with a portable system so good, they record as they travel. Much of Chicago NOW was done in hotel rooms across the country and around the world.
Founding member and trumpet player, Lee Loughnane, took charge of the project to put out a new album without stopping the show, so to speak. Each composer of a song got to act as producer for his entry to the album and various band members helped with arrangements as well as select musicians from outside the group. The group not only recorded on the move, they did not all have to be there at once. Members would record their parts at different times. Hank Linderman, a long time studio engineer, was the coordinating producer. A “collaboration portal” was set up and tracks were sent at all times from Chicago and contributing musicians. The result is a stunning contribution to the Chicago catalog and worthy of their best early efforts.
The title track, released as a download prior to the album début, has now worked its way into the current tour performances. Written by Greg Barnhill and Chicago band member Jason Scheff, the number was produced and arranged by Scheff. It is an energetic start to the album. Scheff also contributed “Love Lives On” and is co-composer to founding member Robert Lamm’s song, “Crazy Happy.”
While the horns section technically remains in tact with founding members Lee Loughnane on trumpet and James Pankow on trombone, founding member and woodwind player Walt Parazaider appears in the videos but in fact only played on three of the recordings. Now at age 71, a variety of health issues in recent years has limited Parazaider’s time on the road. Long time fill-in Ray Herrmann is also credited on three of the songs, though he is not listed as a band member. While Herrmannn is now a frequent performer, the audience does not always realize it. From a distance he somewhat resembles Walt. Other sax players contributed to the album as well.
Guitar player Keith Howland sings the song he composed with Scheff and drummer Tris Imboden, “Nice Girl.” He also contributes, along with Imboden to Lamm’s “Free at Last.” As expected, Lamm leads the way on this album, being credited with lead vocals on six of the songs and background vocals on others.
Previously, Iwrote about “America” released the autumn before Chicago 36. It appears on the album as well. Lou Pardini drives home the song and the social commentary on lead vocal and keyboards. Also on percussion for the band is Walfredo Reyes, Jr., a more recent addition to the Chicago lineup, a talented nine guys.
With the fiftieth anniversary of the band looming on the horizon, Chicago has no intention of giving up. Things have changed over the years, but remarkably, the sound remains as vibrant as ever. Terry Kath, keyboards and bass, died of an accidental gun shot wound in 1978. Peter Cetera left the band in 1985 for a solo career. Original drummer Danny Seraphine was dismissed in 1990. There are two sides (or more) to that story. Original sax player Walt Parazaider, oldest of the group, does not make all the shows and is increasingly covered by Ray Hermann. The current lineup as been together quite a while and their most recent album is a winner. Chicago was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
A view from Chicago, the band
Chicago has been around a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career. After threat of legal action by the home town transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.
Their pop, rock, jazz infused sound was ground breaking. In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and a drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone lead the way. It was a sound that led to more groups backed by horns.
As with many bands of the time period, they had their share of songs with social messages. A war protest song (It Better End Soon), a song following the moon-landing (Where Do We Go From Here?) and a political commentary (Dialogue, Part I & II). They certainly did not rely on this type of song, but they were not afraid of them either.
As the decades rolled on they just may have relied a little more heavily on ballads and soft rock. That’s why it is interesting to find that Chicago is back with another album, Chicago Now, aka Chicago XXXVI, with a heavy reliance on the type of horn sounds of their early years and a commentary on the American scene.
America, America is free! America! America is you and me!
America, the third track on the newly released album, was actually available for download in the fall of 2013. With music and lyrics by founding member Lee Loughnane, it is not a throwback to another era, but a push forward for a band that has done something older bands are reluctant to do. That is, put out an album of new material.
The dream was fading before our eyes Take some time to revive it. ‘We the people’ must start right now Don’t expect our leaders to show us how They don’t have a clue what to do If they knew how to stop this slide We’d have seen some signs by now To turn back the tide.
Lou Pardini provides keyboards and lead vocals for this anthem. The beauty of the chorus and its tight harmony is in contrast to the attack of Pardini on the verses. At times he is almost at a growling pace as he delivers his lines and the song’s message.
We can’t keep havin’ you make our rules When you treat us common folk like fools It’s time to stand up for our rights Put congress in our political sights. Make them pass laws that help us all The Founding Fathers echo Will be heard in the hall By the people, for the people, everyone equal.
If you thought Chicago was gone, even though they tour every year and have periodically released new music, they are “NOW” back and they mean business. Watch the video below for the lyrics and yes, that is the Chicago skyline at the opening. What did you expect?
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