It’s a shame Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has blown off Chicago
“Beginnings,” “Make Me Smile,” “Questions 67 & 68.” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” “25 Or 6 To 4,” “Colour My World,” “Saturday In the Park.”
Recognize those song titles? I find it very hard to believe that Chicago is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can’t think of any other artist or band that is more deserving than Chicago. Without naming names, in my opinion, there are at least a dozen acts that should not have been inducted into the Hall of Fame before Chicago.
Chicago started out as a six-piece R&B cover band called the Big Thing. They were three aspiring Chicago “street musicians” and three music students from DePaul University who also played in various clubs. Singer Peter Cetera joined the group in 1968. In 1969, Chicago released its first album, a double LP titled the “Chicago Transit Authority.” The album reached the Top 20 chart without benefit of a hit single.
Their seven-plus minute cover of Spencer Davis’ “I’m A Man” is the quintessential version of the song, and the first one I heard on FM radio when we were living in Pueblo in 1969.
Soon after the release of “CTA,” the band was contacted by the real Chicago Transit Authority about using its name, so the band became simply Chicago in time for its second release, “Chicago,” which is unofficially called “Chicago 2.” “Colour My World,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Make Me Smile” and “Wake Up Sunshine” were picked from Chicago’s great second album for radio airplay.
Free-form FM radio is where the band received most of its exposure until it started racking up hit songs in the mid-1970s. In the early days, when all of the band members had equal voice, it was all about the music. Their first three albums were all two-LP sets, which was unheard of at the time. Their fourth release was a four-LP live set.
I cannot think of any other band at the time that had such a unique blend of rock, jazz, soul, pop, R&B and classical music. Maybe Blood Sweat & Tears, but they did not have Chicago’s staying power. With Robert Lamm, Terry Kath and Peter Cetera, Chicago had three of rock’s best singers, as well as two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, a percussionist and two keyboard players.
This put Chicago in elite company with bands such as the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, Santana and Traffic, all of whom are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe it is due to the fact that as a group, Chicago never cared for the spotlight as much as the music, nor did they “play” to the critics.
In fact, there were a few times during their early days that they had to be persuaded by radio programmers to shorten some of their tracks for top 40 airplay, but the facts speak for themselves. Based on album sales as certified by the Record Industry Association of America, Chicago is among the top 10 best-selling American acts of all time.
According to Billboard magazine, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys in terms of record sales when considering LPs and 45s. That and the impact they had on music in the late 1960s through the early ‘70s is proof enough to me that they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In my opinion, they deserve the recognition based on their first three releases alone!
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