I was actually singing an Eagles song the other night as I carried laundry up from the basement, but my daughter thought it sounded like a Chicago song.
Really? I couldn’t imagine a Chicago song sounding like “Take It to the Limit” but she hummed the part that reminded her of “that old Chicago song” I apparently used to play a lot when she was little, and I realized that indeed the repeated notes of “coming back, you’re running back, you’re coming back for more” sound a little like notes in the latter part of “Feeling Stronger Every Day.”
So then we had to listen to both songs, which I do really like.
But then I said, “Do you want to hear my favorite Chicago song?” and she was game.
Right before I entered ninth grade, my family moved to a new town. At my previous school system, there were separate tracks for orchestra, concert band, and marching band. Orchestra was perceived as where the best players chose to be, and that was where I had always intended to wind up. However, my new town’s school had no orchestra and only one band. You played in the marching band during football season and switched over to concert band the rest of the year. I was very unhappy about not only the lack of an orchestra but especially the requirement that concert band members participate in marching band.
Yet, as is often the case with disappointments like these, marching band turned out to be the most fun I had in high school.
Because I was new and hadn’t been to summer band camp, I wasn’t able to participate in marching band my first year. My family lived up on a hill above town, and at home every afternoon after school that fall, I could hear faint sounds of the marching band rehearsing on the practice field behind the football stadium.
We had a new band director, freshly graduated from Ohio State and a member of TBDBITL, who was putting together shows with fabulous formations similar to but less high-tech than 21st-century astonishments like the Michael Jackson moonwalk formation (see my post about it HERE) and SO different from the pinwheels that most marching bands relied upon at the time. Even better, the new band director was writing his own arrangements of contemporary rock/pop music for the band to perform instead of the traditional John Philips Sousa type marches that other bands played.
Anyway, I can still remember being at home up on the hill that fall, everything bathed in golden autumn sunlight, while listening to the marching band’s faraway strains of strangely syncopated brass in this song that I’d never heard before. It immediately became, and still remains, my favorite song by the band Chicago, namely “Free,” written by Robert Lamm, one of the group’s founding members (and who I believe still plays with the band).
I love that early ’70s jazzy, progressive rock sound! So did my daughter when I played it for her. She’s very into all types of music, and this song nicely captures that era.
By the way, a few years ago Chicago played Summerfest here in Milwaukee and stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel (now Saint Kate’s) kitty-corner (Milwaukee-speak for “catty-corner” or “cater-cornered,” meaning opposite, on the diagonal) from the Red Arrow Starbucks where I go for coffee on weekdays. The baristas told me that members of Chicago came across the street to Starbucks for coffee and were really nice.
Makes me glad 🙂