Ten “Chicago” Songs


This time I’m not talking about the band, but the city itself.

chicago flag
Source: UnderConsideration.com

It’s where I grew up, and I have fond memories of the place it was until Mary and I packed up our things and the cats and moved south. It’s changed a lot, in some ways for the better, in other ways… no so much. But, anyway, here are ten songs about my hometown, gathered into a playlist for your convenience.

  1. Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town) – Quintette du Hot Club de France: Winner of a recent Battle of the Bands here.
  2. Sidewalks of Chicago – Merle Haggard: Had never heard this song before today, but I gave it a listen, and decided it would be wrong not to include it.
  3. Chicago Style – Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby: Another new-to-me song, but hey… Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby, and some great Chicago-style jazz (some would say Dixieland) backing them up.
  4. My Kind of Town (Chicago Is) – Frank Sinatra: The definitive version of this classic, from the movie Robin and the Seven Hoods.
  5. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace: The first time I heard this, I was practically yelling at the radio, “The east side of Chicago is Lake Michigan!” There is an east side of the city, as it turns out, the section by the Indiana border, but something tells me that wasn’t what they were thinking when they wrote the song.
  6. Take Me Back To Chicago – Chicago: Chicago XI, from whence this comes, was released not long before Terry Kath killed himself, and the whole album is kind of a downer, as if they already knew what was about to happen.
  7. Born in Chicago – The Butterfield Blues Band: From their first album fifty years ago. Written by Nick Gravenites, later the singer with The Electric Flag, which included Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles.
  8. Chicago (We Can Change The World) – Crosby Stills, Nash, and Young: A protest song written in memory of the 1968 Democratic National Convention and all the riots.
  9. Jesus Just Left Chicago – ZZ Top: Some slow Chicago-style blues from three guys from Texas.
  10. Sweet Home Chicago – Buddy Guy and friends: Buddy is joined by Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, and Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player for many years. Everybody gets a solo!

There are plenty more songs about Chicago, as you can see from this list. Hopefully I’ve added your favorites, but again, this is a playlist; if you don’t see your faves, leave me a comment and I’ll add them.

That’s your Thursday Ten for October 29, 2015.

14 thoughts on “Ten “Chicago” Songs

  1. Hi John!

    Bad Bad Leroy Brown seems like a shoo-in about Chicago, but you wanted songs with Chicago in the title, yes?

    I always wondered about that Paper Late song. I just checked Wikipedia and discovered that the band had never BEEN to Chicago when they wrote it, and that they based it on old gangster films. The other, more interesting thing I discovered is that there are several Spanish-language covers, from a Venezuelan woman (Mirla Castellanos) and three or four Mexican bands. All of which sound very different from the one we know!
    (As you know, John, I collect non-English covers of various popular songs, so this was a slam dunk for me, as I could get two versions!)


  2. I like numbers 1, 3, and 4. I’ve always liked The Night Chicago Died. I also love the blues sound of Jesus just left Chicago. ZZ Top’s more bluesy songs are among my favorites. And on Sweet Home Chicago…I don’t know how you can get better than a group of pure talent like that. I’ve seen both Johnny Winter and Robert Cray in concert.


    1. Didn’t much care for Merle Haggard, huh? XD

      Back when I was in college, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells had a band together, and a bunch of us went to hear them. After Buddy played a few songs, he called Junior up to the stage. Junior was three sheets to the wind and started rambling, so I ran to the restroom. I was standing at one of the urinals dealing with matters, and who walks in and stands at the urinal next to me but Buddy Guy? We got to laughing about Junior, although you could tell he was ready to wring his partner’s neck…


    1. I think Terry Kath’s death and the advent of MTV really affected them in a bad way. Terry was really the soul of that band, and Pete Cetera becoming the focal point because he was the best-looking for the videos (which he didn’t especially like and led to his departure) hurt the unity they had. They got back to it with the unreleased “Stone of Sisyphus” album, but Warner Brothers didn’t want to release it because it was so different from what was selling, so they abandoned the project. I used to have a copy of the mp3 files (I deleted them because of space restrictions at the time), and it was a return to the jazzier sound they showed on Chicago VII. I’ll have to see if I can find the torrent again.

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      1. How sad, the demise of a band when one of the core members die. Seems like so many that has happened to. Winds of change…


        1. Chicago is still around, of course, almost 38 years after Terry’s death (he died the week I got married), but nothing like they were when he, Pete Cetera (who left in ’85 when his solo career took off) and Danny Seraphine (fired in ’90) were with them. You take any band and change out their entire rhythm section, things are bound to be different.


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