Song Lyric Sunday: “Street Player”

I’ve seen this blog hop on several people’s feeds and decided to dip my toe into the water (as if I don’t do enough of these already). Helen Vahdati runs Song Lyric Sunday, and issues a prompt weekly and gives the rules, like in this post.

This week’s word is “street,” so I’ve chosen “Street Player,” from Chicago’s 13th album, called, strangely enough, Chicago 13. Written by drummer Danny Seraphine and David “Hawk” Wolinsky, who plays synthesizer on the track, it also features percussionist Airto Moreira and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who really hits the high notes here.

Lyrics courtesy AZLyrics.com

I’ll never forget those aimless years
Street sounds swirling through my mind
Trouble was often in the air
So we fought to forget our despair
I’m a street player
And I’ll play you a song
‘Cause you know, my heart & soul
Will carry, carry on
Carry on
Carry on
Carry on
City life’s the only way
Street corners and billiard halls was our home away
Lessons learned still help me today
I’m a street player
I’ve seen it all
Hit men, thieves and many a brawl
But as you see I still stand tall
It was such a small space in time
I never knew that I would find
A musical path for all to see
Anxiety into ecstasy
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’ve seen it all
Hit men, thieves and many a brawl
But as you see I still stand tall
It was such a small space in time
I never knew that I would find
A musical path for all to see
Anxiety into ecstasy
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’m a street player
I’m a street player

And that’s my very first contribution to Song Lyric Sunday. How’d I do?

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Leonid & Friends

When I was in high school, I loved the band Chicago. I would spend hours in my room, playing their albums over and over, hanging on every note. Don’t believe me? Ask Mark, a/k/a lecycliste, my closest friend from high school. I like to think I was the one who turned him on to Chicago, and he’s about as into them as I am. Or ask Kip, who had to put up with it.

There’s been quite a turnover in Chicago, with the death of guitarist Terry Kath, the departure of bassist Peter Cetera, and the unceremonious termination of drummer Danny Seraphine. Recently, woodwinds player Walt Parazaider has had to stop touring due to bad health. Other, more recent members have come and gone, and the sound is still there, albeit different ecause of all the changes. Dave, The Real Music Observer on YouTube, talks quite a bit about Chicago, recently expressing the opinion that the current lineup of the band, three original members (keyboardist Robert Lamm, trombonist Jim Pankow, and trumpeter Lee Loughnane) notwithstanding, is really nothing more than a tribute band. Of course, there’s all kinds of arguments over that, but tucked in among the comments are people who have been saying that, if they want to hear a Chicago tribute band, they’d rather listen to Leonid & Friends.

Now I’ve seen Leonid’s tribute videos pop up in my YouTube feed, but until this morning, I hadn’t taken the time to listen. What I heard brought me to tears, and no, I’m not just saying that. Leonid Vorobyev and a group of highly-talented and dedicated musicians from Russia have recreated the music of Chicago and have given it new life. Leonid tells us, on the band’s Facebook page

That was my crazy idea – 2014’ fall I’ve reached a pension age – (60 in Russia) but I didn’t retire from business, I just decided to make something special to celebrate the date. The best way is to gather my friends for recording one of my favourite songs. I didn’t expect such effect. Every musician have a job and lack of time. But they are my friends and I was strongly determined to drive the nail home. I’ve started to make it just for myself and partly for my peers-musicians to encourage them, but later I saw everybody love it more and more. Step by step… and in the end it seemed good enough to call two guys with camera and shoot the video. When the first video (Brand New Love Affair) got so warm reception every participant told me – “let’s do the next one”. What have I gotten into? I said Okay, Make Me Smile is the next! Now we have seven songs finished and four more songs in progression. So it’s just started over.☺

Basically, these guys (and a few women) are doing this for, pardon the expression, shits and giggles, and have created something beautiful. They’re not perfect (you hear the occasional Russian accent, and the arrangements are a little off in places), but that just proves that these aren’t musicians pretending to play and sing these songs while the original songs are piped in. No, this is a labor of love; as they say at the beginning of each video, “As a tribute to the one of the greatest bands in the world!” Here’s my playlist for this week.

  1. Old Days
  2. Make Me Smile
  3. 25 or 6 to 4
  4. If You Leave Me Now
  5. Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away
  6. Questions 67 and 68
  7. Beginnings
  8. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  9. Saturday In The Park
  10. Wishing You Were Here

Their first album, Chicagovich, is available on iTunes and a few other places. I’ve been listening to it as I wrote this.

Spasibo, Leonid & Friends. You’ve made this old Chicago fan happier than you can imagine. That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for July 9, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, Alana, Michelle and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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Writer’s Workshop: You Can’t Go Home Again

I’m going to stay away from the “write a post inspired by the word: childish” prompt, because really, I got nothing there. Instead, how about this one?

What band or TV show would you like to see reunite?

That one is easy: the band CHICAGO.

“But John,” you protest, “Chicago is still around!” And you would be right: There is a band named Chicago that has half the original members. It’s the other half I miss: original bassist Peter Cetera, original drummer Dan Seraphine, and original guitarist (the late) Terry Kath.

Terry Kath was irreplaceable: even the members of the band agree he was the heart and soul of the band, and things were never the same after his death. You could replace him with someone who was technically just as good, who could play his solos and achieve the same sound he had, and it still wouldn’t be the same. Peter Cetera describes his departure from Chicago as “an ugly divorce,” and refuses to have anything to do with the remainder of the group. When he left, he took the songs he wrote with him, including “Wishing You Were Here,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Baby What A Big Surprise,” “You’re The Inspiration,” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” some of the band’s biggest hits. Dan Seraphine was fired from the band. Why is still somewhat of a mystery to me: he claims the reason was that the band wanted to replace him with drum machines, while other members of the band claim he was preoccupied with outside ventures and not paying enough attention to his drumming. My guess is they’re both right.

In any event, Chicago has become a sort of tribute band, playing the oldies circuit, more content to live off the legacy they built in the 70’s and 80’s than they are in creating new music. (Their most recent album of original material, Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus, had been recorded in 1993; bootlegs of the album had been floating around Usenet for years before it was officially issued in 2008.) The band has been around since the late 60’s, so I guess they’re entitled.

Right now, I’m listening to Chicago: VI Decades Live (This Is What We Do) on Spotify. It’s a live album, half of which was recorded in 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival. Already it’s better than their first live album, Chicago IV: At Carnegie Hall. If there was a way to have that band together again, it would be great.

But, you can’t go home again…

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Artists From Chicago

You probably have figured out by now that I was born and raised in Chicago and lived there the first 31 years of my life, and it should be pretty obvious by now that music is a big part of my life. So, today, I want to share a few songs from bands that came from Chicago. Who knows? It might even grow into a series on Two for Tuesday. Keep in mind, when I say “Chicago,” I’m probably talking about the Chicagoland area, encompassing both the city and the suburbs. People from the suburbs like to say they’re from Chicago, and it drives people who actually live in Chicago crazy.

  1. Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” With a name like Chicago, it’s pretty obvious that there was a pretty strong connection to the Windy City. Six of the seven original members were from Chicago (keyboardist Robert Lamm was from New York, but we won’t hold that against him). They started out calling themselves The Big Thing, then renamed themselves The Chicago Transit Authority, which lasted until the real CTA (the organization that runs the trains and buses) threatened to sue them. They cut the name down to Chicago, because they figured the city wouldn’t sue them over the name.
  2. The Ides Of March, “LA Goodbye” The Ides are from Berwyn, Illinois, just outside Chicago. They had a huge hit in 1969, “Vehicle,” which qualifies them as a one-hit wonder, although this song was a hit on WLS and WCFL, the two big rock stations in town. Guitarist Jim Peterik was also a founding member of Survivor and wrote the song “Eye of the Tiger,” that band’s biggest hit.
  3. New Colony Six, “I Will Always Think About You” The NC6 had their biggest hits between 1966 and 1971. They actually wore Colonial outfits on stage, not unlike Paul Revere & The Raiders, but unlike that band, they dealt mostly in soft rock. They weren’t well-known outside the Chicago area, but this song rose to #22 nationally. There is a rather funny video that shows them making an appearance on Mulqueens’ Kiddie A-Go-Go, a local kids’ show.
  4. The Buckinghams, “Kind Of A Drag” Originally known as The Pulsations, they were the house band on WGN-TV’s All-Time Hits in the mid-60’s. The producers wanted them to adopt a more British-sounding name to take advantage of the ongoing British Invasion, and a security guard at the station suggested The Buckinghams. They liked the name because they associated it with Buckingham Fountain, a popular Chicago landmark (until the damn Bean came along). They became one of the most popular acts in the nation in 1967, charting five Top 20 hits that year. They split up in 1970 but reformed in the mid-80’s and are now still touring. They were Al Kooper’s inspiration for forming Blood Sweat & Tears.
  5. The Cryan Shames, “Sugar and Spice” From suburban Hinsdale, the band’s name derives from the fact that Tommy Krein (pronounced “cryin'”) was asked to join the band but politely declined, leading on member to say it was a “cryin’ shame” he turned them down. Always popular in Chicago but not especially in the rest of the country, this was their one song that cracked the Top 50 (#49) on the Hot 100.
  6. Spanky & Our Gang, “Like To Get To Know You” From Bloomington, Illinois, a bit further south than the Chicago metro area (but close enough for me), their name was inspired by the “Our Gang” shorts, because Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane’s name was close to that of Spanky on those reels. They first came to national attention with “Sunday Will Never Be The Same,” which reached #9 nationally. This was the title track from their second album and reached #18.
  7. Curtis Mayfield, “Freddie’s Dead” While Chicago was no Detroit, Philadelphia, or Memphis, it was the source of some great Soul and R&B music. Curtis Mayfield got his start with Jerry Butler and The Impressions in the late 1950’s, and left that group in 1970 in pursuit of a solo career. He hit it big in 1972 when he composed and performed the music for the blaxploitation movie Super Fly, from which this song and the title track were issued as singles, both earning gold records. He’s generally credited with infusing soul music with social consciousness.
  8. Jerry Butler, “For Your Precious Love” Born in Sunflower, Mississippi, he lived most of his early years in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project on the Near North Side of Chicago. He started out singing in church, where he met Curtis Mayfield. He’s written a number of songs, including “He Will Break Your Heart,” later covered by Tony Orlando & Dawn as “He Won’t Love You (Like I Love You),” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” with Otis Redding. “The Iceman” (a name given him by Philadelphia DJ Georgie Woods) continues to perform in addition to his duties as a Cook County Commissioner.
  9. The Chi-Lites, “Stoned Out Of My Mind” They got their start at Hyde Park High School and enjoyed their greatest success during the early Seventies, scoring eleven Top 10 hits on the R&B chart between 1969 and 1974, including “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh, Girl.” This is a personal favorite.
  10. Lou Rawls, “Lady Love” Frank Sinatra once said that Lou had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” Lou recorded sixty albums (one of those was an album of Frank Sinatra covers) that sold 33 million copies over his career and had a number of hits on the R&B chart, but not much crossover success until 1976, with “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” which reached #2 on the Hot 100 as well as #1 on the R&B chart. “Lady Love” was his followup single. Of all the acts here, Lou identified most with Chicago, recording a jingle for WGN-TV proclaiming the station as “Chicago’s Very Own,” which could just as easily apply to him. For years he worked the telethon for the United Negro College Fund.
  11. Earth, Wind & Fire, “After The Love Is Gone” EWF was formed by Maurice White, a former session drummer for Chess Records and member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and was the most successful R&B act of the Seventies and early Eighties. They’ve been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and five members (White and his brother Verdine, Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Al McKay) have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They’ve also been awarded by ASCAP, the NAACP, and BET with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Their Greatest Hits (volume one) album is a must-have; it includes all of their hits from the Seventies and Eighties.
  12. Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good” The band The American Breed, best known for their hit single “Bend Me, Shape Me,” formed the core of the band Rufus, which launched the career of Chaka Khan (I had a friend who was madly in love with her, probably for good reason). The 1974 album Rags To Rufus had two hits, this song (written by Stevie Wonder) and “You Got The Love,” written by Ray Parker Jr. and Chaka Khan. The album went platinum and won a Grammy Award. Tensions grew among the members and the band split in the early Eighties, by which time Chaka Khan had gone off on her own.

And there, at last, is Monday’s Music Moves Me for February 19, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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Two For Tuesday: Chicago (High School Days)

Today’s walk through the music of my high school years should have been about the Jackson 5, but I see I’ve already done them. So instead, I’m going to profile the band that came in sixth.

If you’ve hung around here long enough, you know Chicago was my favorite band when I was in high school, and that Terry Kath, the band’s guitarist, was my “guitar hero,” as it were. I’ve talked about them a number of times, including here, here, and here, and I’ve included their music in a number of other posts. I’ll try not to choose songs that I’ve already done, although that might not be easy…

Chicago had 9 songs in the Top Ten during the early Seventies, but none of them reached #1. The last two of those songs were from their 1974 album Chicago VII, which might have been my favorite, mostly because they had gotten back to their more jazz roots. The first of them was “I’ve Been Searching So Long,” which entered the Top Ten in May and spent three weeks there, peaking at #9.

The second was “Call On Me,” the first song for the band written by trumpet player Lee Loughnane. It entered the Top Ten in July and spent four weeks there, peaking at #6.

Chicago went on to greater success in the late Seventies, including their first #1 hit with “If You Leave Me Now,” which also earned the band its first two Grammys (Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocal and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus) in 1977. Terry Kath accidentally shot and killed himself in January 1978, bassist and lead vocalist Peter Cetera left in 1985, and drummer Danny Seraphine left (officially, he was fired) in 1990.

Chicago, your Two for Tuesday, August 8, 2017.