'Old Days' for rock band Chicago include interactions with Frank Sinatra, Kenny Rogers, Robert Blake and more
Chicago will return to Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead Sunday night
MOORHEAD -- The classic rock band Chicago has now been around for more than 50 years , releasing its debut in 1969 when it was still known as Chicago Transit Authority.
The group has released 21 top 10 singles and has become synonymous with horn-driven rock played at sporting events and pop ballad favorites for slow dances.
The group, still featuring founding members keyboardist/singer Robert Lamm , trumpet player Lee Loughnane and trombonist James Pankow, returns to Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead Sunday night to play its best known hits.
But how well do you really know the band’s material? Here are some interesting tidbits about the band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
- The group’s debut, “Chicago Transit Authority,” hit shelves in April of 1969 but didn’t catch on immediately. The group was asked to play Woodstock that August, but promoter Bill Graham took it off the lineup and gave the spot to Santana which provided that outfit with its landmark performance.
- “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?” was the first song recorded by the group and released on its 1969 debut, but it wasn’t until the band landed two singles from its second album that it was released as a single at the end of 1970.
- “Colour My World” was the first notable hit for the group in early 1970. Frank Sinatra wanted to record the song on the condition that Pankow write an additional verse as the song only had one. Pankow declined the offer, but would later say, “I said no to Frank Sinatra’s request and to this day I still wonder if I did the right thing.”
- Perhaps best known for feel-good tunes like “Saturday in the Park” and “Old Days,” Chicago started with a stronger political voice. In the notes for 1970’s “Chicago” (now known as “Chicago II”) the group stated: “With this album, we dedicate ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the revolution. And the revolution in all of its forms.” The song “Dialogue (Part 1 & 11)” from 1972 was a conversation between characters voicing different points of views on issues like the Vietnam War. The 1975 single “Harry Truman,” was written as a response to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon and is a call for better leadership with the line “America needs you, Harry Truman.”
- The group’s signature song, “25 or 6 to 4,” was the first to crack the top 5 on the charts, but that’s not the only hit behind the song. Singer/bassist Peter Cetera had his jaw broken by a Los Angeles Dodger fan when he was cheering on his hometown Chicago Cubs at a Dodger Stadium game. The punch broke his jaw in three places and required it to be wired shut. Cetera started singing with a clenched jaw and sang the tune that way when it was recorded a few months after the injury. Another knock against the song, it was banned in Singapore for 23 years until 1993 due to the belief it was about drugs, though composer Lamm has clarified it’s a song about writing a song in the early hours of the morning.
- When the group’s producer James Guerico produced and directed the 1973 Robert Blake mystery “Electra Glide in Blue,” he cast Chicago members Cetera, Loughnane, Terry Kath and Walter Parazaider in the film.
- The group’s Chicago’s 1976 smash “If You Leave Me Now” was the group’s first no. 1 hit and provided its only Grammy win, though they were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
- Guitarist singer Kath died from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot in early 1978 and the group struggled to refocus until “The Tonight Show” bandleader Doc Severinsen visited the group and encouraged them to continue on together.
- After Kath’s death the group transitioned to more of a pop sound focused less on the horn section and more on Cetera’s singing. In 1982 Cetera’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” became the band’s second no. 1 hit, though drummer Danny Seraphine was the only other member of the group to play on the track. There were as many members of Toto — keyboardists David Paich and Steve Porcaro — on the recording. Paich, Porcaro and Toto bandmate, guitarist Steve Lukather, also play on the follow-up single, “Love Me Tomorrow.”
- The 1984 hit “You’re the Inspiration” was written by Cetera on request for Kenny Rogers. When the country singer didn’t pick it for his album, Cetera brought it back to Chicago. It would be one of the last songs he wrote for the group before leaving in 1985.
- The 1988 hit “Look Away,” sung by Bill Champlin, was written by hitmaker Diane Warren. Before it came to Chicago, it was offered to Cheap Trick who opted instead for “The Flame” and the Swedish rock band Europe which turned it down because the singer didn’t want to record other people’s music. It became the group’s third no. 1 hit and the only one after Cetera’s departure.
If you go
When: 7 p.m., Sunday
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, Moorhead
Info: Tickets range from $49.50 to $129.50, plus fees.