I Chicago sono un gruppo rock statunitense, formatosi proprio a Chicago nel 1967. Autodefinitisi come “band di rock and roll coi fiati”, i Chicago cominciarono come rock band impegnata politicamente e talvolta sperimentale, muovendosi poi tra il progressive rock ed il jazz rock fino ad approdare ad atmosfere più melodiche e commerciali.Da Wikipedia, l’enciclopedia libera.
L’apice del successo fu raggiunto negli anni settanta ed ottanta, quando spesso raggiunsero il numero 1 delle classifiche di Billboard: tra i gruppi americani, solo i Beach Boys hanno fatto registrare più hit nelle classifiche di Billboard (sia di singoli che di album). I Chicago sono annoverati tra le band rock più longeve e di maggior successo della storia, avendo venduto più di 100 milioni di dischi. Secondo Billboard, negli anni settanta i Chicago furono leader assoluti negli Stati Uniti nella vendita di singoli con oltre 40 milioni di copie nei soli Stati Uniti, che fruttarono 23 dischi d’oro, 18 di platino e 8 di doppio-platino. Nel corso della loro storia hanno avuto cinque album al numero uno e 21 singoli da top-ten.
Dal volgere degli anni ottanta, pur mantenendo una notevole fama, hanno visto un lento e graduale declino delle loro fortune discografiche.
Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane e James Pankow sono tre giovani musicisti studenti alla DePaul University. Si fanno le ossa nei club della città, suonando qualsiasi genere di musica, dall’R&B alla musica irlandese. Incontrano così il chitarrista Terry Kath e il batterista Danny Seraphine; a metà degli anni sessanta si aggiunge Robert Lamm.
La band prende il nome di The Big Thing e incomincia a suonare cover tratte dal repertorio di James Brown e Wilson Pickett, ma un loro amico, James William Guercio, che nel frattempo è diventato un produttore della Columbia Records, li incoraggia a scrivere dei pezzi propri. Nello stesso periodo al sestetto si unisce Peter Cetera, già cantante e bassista degli Exceptions.
Guercio finanzia la band e la fa trasferire a Los Angeles nel giugno 1968. Quasi contemporaneamente riesce a procurare ai Chicago un ingaggio alla Columbia per un doppio album (cosa assai rara per una prima uscita), decidendo anche che il gruppo venga rappresentato sulla cover del disco da un logo invece che da una fotografia. Dopo aver firmato con la Columbia, i The Big Thing cambiano il loro nome in Chicago Transit Authority. Esce così – nell’aprile del 1969 – l’eponimo The Chicago Transit Authority, che porta i sette in un tour nazionale. In giugno il disco raggiunge la top 20, ma senza un singolo di supporto: diventa infatti un successo underground grazie ai passaggi di alcune stazioni radio di musica rock. L’album comunque riesce a divenire disco d’oro e a vendere alla fine dell’anno due milioni di copie. Poco dopo l’uscita dell’album, la band cambia il nome in Chicago su minaccia di azione legale da parte della vera Chicago Transit Authority, l’azienda municipale dei trasporti di Chicago.
Nel 1970, sempre sotto la supervisione di Guercio, viene poi pubblicato il secondo album del gruppo, l’altro doppio Chicago. Il primo singolo, Make Me Smile, diventa un successo della Top 100. In primavera la Columbia Records realizza Does Anybody Really Knows What Time It Is?, che riprende alcuni brani del primo album e i successivi singoli.
Chicago III, ancora altro doppio, è pronto nel 1971, riuscendo a vendere sempre molto bene pur non piazzando nessun singolo nella Top Ten. A questo segue il live intitolato Chicago at Carnagie Hall, che vende milioni di copie.
Chicago V – questa volta un unico LP – viene pubblicato nel giugno del 1972, rimane nove settimane primo in classifica Billboard 200 e vende più di due milioni di copie vincendo due dischi di platino, forte del traino del singolo Saturday in the Park che arriva terzo nella Billboard Hot 100 vincendo un disco d’oro. L’album raggiunge anche la quarta posizione in Olanda e la settima in Norvegia.
Chicago VI esce a un anno di distanza e ripete lo stesso successo raggiungendo la prima posizione nella Billboard 200 per cinque settimane vincendo due dischi di platino, lanciando brani come Feelin’ Stronger Every Day (n. 10 Billboard Hot 100) e Just You ‘n’ Me (n. 4 Billboard Hot 100).
Le successive hits Call on Me (n. 6 Billboard Hot 100) e (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long (n. 9 Billboard Hot 100) fanno da apripista a Chicago VII del 1974 che raggiunge la prima posizione nella Billboard 200 vincendo il disco di platino. La storia si ripete: milioni di copie vendute e grandissimo successo, così come Chicago VIII (1975) che arriva in prima posizione per due settimane nella Billboard 200 ed in sesta in Norvegia grazie anche ad Old Days che raggiunge la quinta posizione nella Billboard Hot 100, Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits (sempre novembre 1975) che raggiunge la prima posizione nella Billboard 200 per cinque settimane e la settima in Nuova Zelanda e Chicago X, che fa conquistare alla band anche un Grammy per la canzone If You Leave Me Now. Anche il successivo Chicago XI (1977) raggiunge ottimi risultati. Se i riscontri sono più che positivi, cominciano a nascere delle discussioni tra i Chicago e la parte produttiva, la cui pressione non è vista di buon occhio dal gruppo che decide di fare anche a meno di Guercio. A ciò si aggiunge l’improvvisa scomparsa di Kath, che muore per un colpo accidentale di arma da fuoco nel gennaio del 1978.
Nonostante l’enorme perdita, i rimanenti membri decidono di continuare e Donnie Dacus, scelto tra molti aspiranti successori, prende il posto di Kath.
Il suono – come si capisce dal primo singolo, la hit Alive Again – è più rock, ma nonostante questo Hot Streets è il primo album della band che non raggiunge la Top Ten. Anche Chicago XIII non ottiene i risultati sperati. A questo punto Dacus lascia la band, sostituito da Chris Pinnick. Successivo è Chicago XIV, realizzato nel 1980, mentre per il quindicesimo album, il Greatest Hits Vol. 2, la band lascia la Columbia Records e incomincia a lavorare cercando un nuovo approccio. Approccio che trova nel compositore e produttore David Foster, che fa ritornare i Chicago all’enfasi del passato grazie alle ballate cantate da Cetera.
A questo si aggiunge la presenza di Bill Champlin, un polistrumentista molto capace. Il gruppo, con questa nuova formazione, firma con la Full Moon Records e realizza Chicago XVI nell’inverno del 1982, anticipato dal singolo Hard to Say I’m Sorry. Il disco ritorna a vendere milioni di copie; a esso segue Chicago XVII (1984), forse il miglior successo del gruppo, poiché vende sei milioni di copie. Tuttavia, nonostante il successo riconquistato, nel 1985 Cetera decide di lasciare il gruppo per una carriera solista. A lui si sostituisce Jason Scheff, che ha una voce molto simile a quella di Cetera, ricreando così le stesse atmosfere delle ballate tipiche della band. Lo strappo con Cetera si fa sentire, anche se i due album successivi, Chicago XVIII e Chicago XIX, vengono accolti bene. La fine degli anni novanta vede ancora un cambio nella formazione: Chicago XX non ha il successo sperato.
Nel 1995, Keith Howland sostituisce Bailey alla chitarra; nello stesso anno i Chicago rifiutano di concedere i diritti alla Columbia per creare il catalogo delle loro canzoni, e fondano una propria etichetta, la Chicago Records. Firmano comunque con la Giant Records per realizzare il loro ventiduesimo album, Nigh&Day. A questo fanno seguito le due raccolte The Heart of Chicago 1967, del 1997, e The Heart of Chicago 1967 Vol. 2 1967, dell’anno successivo.
Nel 1998 realizzano Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album e nel 1999 Chicago XXVI: The Live Album. Nel 2002, passano alla Rhino Records per la ristampa dei loro lavori. Il successo di The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning conferma che i Chicago continuano a riscuotere consensi. Nel 2006 la band riappare con un nuovo album, Chicago XXX, pubblicato per Rhino. L’anno successivo esce The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition, un altro greatest hit.
Nel 2008 pubblicano Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sysiphus (noto anche come il fallito Chicago XXII).
Nel 2011 escono due album: Chicago XXXIV: Live ìn ’75 ovvero un doppio dal vivo registrato tra il 24 e 26 giugno 1975 nel Maryland; ad ottobre, per la produzione del redivivo Ramone, il natalizio O Christmas Three.
1969 Chicago Transit Authority
Rhino / Chicago Records Dist. (374)
1970 Chicago II
1971 Chicago III
Chicago Records Dist. (118)
1971 At Carnegie Hall, Vols. 1-4 (Chicago IV)
1972 Chicago V
1972 Live in Japan
Chicago Records Dist. (53)
1973 Chicago VI
1974 Chicago VII
1975 Chicago VIII
1976 Chicago X
1977 Chicago XI
1978 Hot Streets
1979 Chicago 13
1980 Chicago XIV
1982 Chicago 16
1984 Chicago 17
1986 Chicago 18
Flashback Records / Warner Bros. (40)
1988 Chicago 19
Full Moon/Reprise (40)
1991 Chicago Twenty 1
Reprise / Full Moon/Warner Bros. (34)
1995 Night & Day: Big Band Giant / Warner Bros. (29)
1997 The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath
Chicago Records Dist. (6)
1998 Chicago 25: The Christmas Album
Chicago Records Dist. (18)
1999 Chicago XXVI — The Live Album
Chicago Records Dist. (15)
2003 Chicago Christmas: What’s It Gonna Be Santa?
2006 Chicago XXX
2008 Stone of Sisyphus: XXXII
2011 O Christmas Three
Broken Silence / Chicago Records Dist. / Mailboat Records (12)
2014 Now: Chicago XXXVI Frontiers / Frontiers Records (55)
Artist Biography by William Ruhlmann
According to Billboard chart statistics, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American rock band of all time, in terms of both albums and singles. Judged by album sales alone, as certified by the R.I.A.A., the band does not rank quite so high, but it is still among the Top Ten best-selling U.S. groups ever. If such statements of fact surprise, that’s because Chicago has been singularly underrated since the beginning of its long career, both because of its musical ambitions — to the musicians, rock is only one of several styles of music to be used and blended, along with classical, jazz, R&B, and pop — and because of its refusal to emphasize celebrity over the music. The result has been that many critics have consistently failed to appreciate its music and that its media profile has always been low. At the same time, however, Chicago has succeeded in the ways it intended to. From the beginning of its emergence as a national act, it has been able to fill arenas with satisfied fans. And beyond the impressive sales and chart statistics, its music has endured, played constantly on the radio and instantly familiar to tens of millions.
Chicago marked the confluence of two distinct, but intermingling musical strains in Chicago, Illinois, in the mid-’60s: an academic approach and one coming from the streets. Reed player Walter Parazaider (born March 14, 1945, in Chicago), trumpeter Lee Loughnane (born October 21, 1946, in Chicago), and trombonist James Pankow (born August 20, 1947, in St. Louis, Missouri) were all music students at DePaul University. But they moonlighted in the city’s clubs, playing everything from R&B to Irish music, and there they encountered less formally educated but no less talented players like guitarist Terry Kath (born January 31, 1946, in Chicago; died January 23, 1978, in Los Angeles, California) and drummer Danny Seraphine (born August 28, 1948, in Chicago). In the mid-’60s, most rock groups followed the instrumentation of the Beatles — two guitars, bass, and drums — and horn sections were heard only in R&B. But in the summer of 1966, the Beatles used horns on “Got to Get You into My Life” and, as usual, pop music began to follow their lead. At the end of the year, the Buckinghams, a Chicago band guided by a friend of Parazaider’s, James William Guercio, scored a national hit with the horn-filled “Kind of a Drag,” which went on to hit number one in February 1967.
That was all the encouragement Parazaider and his friends needed. Parazaider called a meeting of the band-to-be at his apartment on February 15, 1967, inviting along a talented organist and singer he had run across, Robert Lamm (born October 13, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York). Lamm agreed to join and also said he could supply the missing bass sounds to the ensemble using the organ’s foot pedals (a skill he had not actually acquired at the time).
Developing a repertoire of James Brown and Wilson Pickett material, the new band rehearsed in Parazaider’s parents’ basement before beginning to get gigs around town under the name the Big Thing. Soon, they were playing around the Midwest. By this time, Guercio had become a staff producer at Columbia Records, and he encouraged the band to begin developing original songs. Kath, and especially Lamm, took up the suggestion. (Soon, Pankow also became a major writer for the band.) Meanwhile, the sextet became a septet when Peter Cetera (born September 13, 1944, in Chicago), singer and bassist for a rival Midwest band, the Exceptions, agreed to defect and join the Big Thing. This gave the group the unusual versatility of having three lead singers, the smooth baritone Lamm, the gruff baritone Kath, and Cetera, who was an elastic tenor. When Guercio came back to see the group in the late winter of 1968, he deemed them ready for the next step. In June 1968, he financed their move to Los Angeles.
Guercio exerted a powerful influence on the band as its manager and producer, which would become a problem over time. At first, the bandmembers were willing to live together in a two-bedroom house, practice all the time, and change the group’s name to one of Guercio’s choosing, Chicago Transit Authority. Guercio’s growing power at Columbia Records enabled him to get the band signed there and to set in place the unusual image the band would have. He convinced the label to let this neophyte band release a double album as its debut (that is, when they agreed to a cut in their royalties), and he decided the group would be represented on the cover by a logo instead of a photograph.
Chicago Transit Authority, released in April 1969, debuted on the charts in May as the band began touring nationally. By July, the album had reached the Top 20, without benefit of a hit single. It had been taken up by the free-form FM rock stations and become an underground hit. It was certified gold by the end of the year and eventually went on to sell more than two million copies. (In September 1969, the band played the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival, and somehow the promoter obtained the right to tape the show. That same low-fidelity tape has turned up in an endless series of albums ever since, including Anthology, Beat the Bootleggers: Live 1967, Beginnings, Beginnings Live, Chicago [Classic World], Chicago Live, Chicago Transit Authority: Live in Concert [Magnum], Chicago Transit Authority: Live in Concert [Onyx], Great Chicago in Concert, I’m a Man, In Concert [Digmode], In Concert [Pilz], Live! [Columbia River], Live [LaserLight], Live Chicago, Live in Concert, Live in Toronto, Live ’69, Live 25 or 6 to 4, The Masters, Rock in Toronto, and Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival.) To Guercio’s surprise, he was contacted by the real Chicago Transit Authority, which objected to the band’s use of the name; he responded by shortening the name to simply “Chicago.” When he and the group finished the second album (another double) for release at the start of 1970, it was called Chicago, though it has since become known as Chicago II.Chicago II vaulted into the Top Ten in its second week on the Billboard chart, even before its first single, “Make Me Smile,” hit the Hot 100. The single was an excerpt from a musical suite, and the band at first objected to the editing considered necessary to prepare it for AM radio play. But it went on to reach the Top Ten, as did its successor, “25 or 6 to 4.” The album quickly went gold and eventually platinum. In the fall of 1970, Columbia released “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” drawn from the group’s first album, as its next single; it gave them their third consecutive Top Ten hit.
Chicago III, another double album, was ready for release at the start of 1971, and it just missed hitting number one while giving the band a third gold (and later platinum) LP. Its singles did not reach the Top Ten, however, and Columbia again reached back, releasing “Beginnings” (from the first album) backed with “Colour My World” (from the second) to give Chicago its fourth Top Ten single. Next up was a live album, the four-disc box set Chicago at Carnegie Hall, which, despite its size, crested in the Top Five and sold over a million copies. (The band itself preferred Live in Japan, an album recorded in February 1972 and initially released only in Japan.) Chicago V, a one-LP set, released in July 1972, spent nine weeks at number one on its way to selling over two million copies, spurred by its gold-selling Top Ten hit “Saturday in the Park.” Chicago VI followed a year later and repeated the same success, launching the Top Ten singles “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” and “Just You ‘n’ Me.”
The next Top Ten hit, “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long,” was released in advance of Chicago VII in the late winter of 1974. The album was the band’s third consecutive chart-topper and another million-seller. “Call On Me” became its second Top Ten single. Chicago VIII, which marked the promotion of sideman percussionist Laudir de Oliveira as a full-fledged bandmember, appeared in the spring of 1975, spawned the Top Ten hit “Old Days,” and became the band’s fourth consecutive number one LP. After the profit-taking Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits in the fall of 1975 came Chicago X, which missed hitting number one but eventually sold over two million copies, in part because of the inclusion of the Grammy-winning number one single “If You Leave Me Now.” Chicago XI, released in the late summer of 1977, continued the seemingly endless string of success, reaching the Top Ten, selling a million copies, and generating the Top Five hit “Baby, What a Big Surprise.”But there was trouble beneath the surface. The band’s big hits were starting to be solely ballads sung by Cetera, which frustrated the musicians’ musical ambitions. They had failed to attract critical notice, and what press attention they were given often alluded to Guercio’s Svengali-like control as manager and producer. Chicago determined to fire Guercio and demonstrate that they could succeed without him. Shortly afterward, they were struck by a crushing blow. Kath, a gun enthusiast, accidentally shot and killed himself on January 23, 1978. Though he, like most of the other members of the band, was not readily recognizable outside the group, he had actually had a large say in its direction, and his loss was incalculable. Nevertheless, the band closed ranks and went on.
Guitarist Donnie Dacus was chosen from auditions and joined the band in time for its 12th LP release, which was given a non-numerical title, Hot Streets, and which put prominent pictures of the bandmembers on the cover for the first time. The sound, as indicated by the first single, the Top 20 hit “Alive Again,” was harder rock, and the band’s core following responded, but Hot Streets was Chicago’s first album since 1969 to miss the Top Ten. Chicago 13 then missed the Top 20. (At this point, Dacus left the band, and Chicago hired guitarist Chris Pinnick as a sideman, eventually upping him to full-fledged group-member status.) Released in 1980, Chicago XIV, the last album to feature de Oliveira, didn’t go gold. By 1981, with the release of the 15th album, the poor-selling Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, the band parted ways with Columbia Records and began looking for a new approach.
They found it in writer/producer David Foster, who returned to an emphasis on the band’s talent for power ballads as sung by Cetera. They also brought in one of Foster’s favorite session musicians, Bill Champlin (born May 21, 1947, in Oakland, California), as a full-fledged bandmember. Champlin, formerly the leader of the Sons of Champlin, was a multi-instrumentalist with a gruff voice that allowed him to sing the parts previously taken by Kath. With these additions, the band signed with Full Moon Records, an imprint of Warner Bros., and released Chicago 16 in the spring of 1982, prefaced by the single “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” which topped the charts, leading to a major comeback. The album returned Chicago to million-selling Top Ten status. Chicago 17, released in the spring of 1984, was even more successful — in fact, the biggest-selling album of the band’s career — with platinum certifications for six million copies as of 1997. It spawned two Top Five hits, “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration.”
The renewed success, however, changed the long-established group dynamics, thrusting Cetera out as a star. He left the band for a solo career in 1985. (Pinnick also left at about this time, and the band did not immediately bring in a new guitarist.) As Cetera’s replacement, Chicago found Jason Scheff, the 23-year-old bass-playing son of famed bassist Jerry Scheff, a longtime sideman with Elvis Presley. Scheff boasted a tenor voice that allowed him to re-create Cetera’s singing on many Chicago hits. The split with Cetera had a negative commercial impact, however. Despite boasting a Top Five hit single in “Will You Still Love Me?,” 1986’s Chicago 18 only went gold. The band recovered, however, with Chicago 19, released in the spring of 1988. Among its singles, “I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love” made the Top Five, “Look Away” topped the charts, and “You’re Not Alone” made the Top Ten as the album went platinum. Another single, “What Kind of Man Would I Be?,” originally found on the album, was included as part of the 1989 compilation Greatest Hits 1982-1989 (which counted as the 20th album) and became a Top Five hit, while the album sold five million copies by 1997.
At the turn of the ’80s into the ’90s, Chicago underwent two more personnel changes, with guitarist DaWayne Bailey joining and original drummer Danny Seraphine departing, to be replaced by Tris Imboden. Chicago Twenty 1, released at the start of 1991, sold disappointingly, and Warner rejected the band’s next offering (though tracks from it did turn up on compilations). Chicago, however, maintained a loyal following that enabled them to tour successfully every summer. In 1995, Keith Howland replaced Bailey as Chicago’s guitarist. The same year, the band regained rights to its Columbia catalog and established its own Chicago Records label to reissue the albums. They also signed to Giant Records, another Warner imprint, to release their 22nd album, Night & Day, a collection of big-band standards that made the Top 100.
In 1998, they released Chicago 25: The Christmas Album on Chicago Records, and they followed it in 1999 with Chicago XXVI: The Live Album. And the success of The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning demonstrated that their music continued to appeal to fans. Feeding off the renewed interest, the band reappeared in 2006 with the new album Chicago XXX on Rhino. Two years later, the rejected Warner album from 1993 was finally released by Rhino as Stone of Sisyphus: XXXII. Chicago toured regularly during the final years of the 2000s and returned to the recording studio with producer Phil Ramone for the 2011 album O Christmas Three (aka Chicago XXXIII). During the early 2010s, they performed often, and ventured on several joint tours with the Doobie Brothers. In May of 2013, the band announced they’d begun recording for their next album, and released several singles sporadically throughout the rest of the year. They also made a splash at the 2014 Grammy Awards, performing several of their classics with Robin Thicke. The album, aptly titled Chicago XXXVI: Now, was their first collection of original material in eight years and