MY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION SPEECH FOR CHICAGO
The year was 1966, and the place was Chicago's DePaul University. That was where a saxophone, clarinet, and flute player named Walter Parazaider got together with a drummer named Danny Seraphine, a guitar player and singer named Terry Kath, a trumpet player named Lee Loughnane, and a trombone player named James Pankow. Then in 1967, they met a piano player and a singer named Robert Lamm, from Chicago's Roosevelt University, who was performing at the Belmont Lounge and Yogi's Den in Chicago, and they asked him to join their band, which he did. The band would be called The Big Thing, and The Big Thing would play on the Midwest club circuit, building a following. An engagement during the second week of December 1967 proved to be an important gig. The Big Thing was an opening act at Barnaby's in Chicago for a band called the Exceptions, which was the biggest club band in the Midwest, and they stuck around and listened to them. If The Big Thing had stayed late to see the Exceptions, one of the Exceptions had come early to see The Big Thing. That night, singer and bass guitar player Peter Cetera would leave the Exceptions and join The Big Thing as its seventh member, and big things were about to happen.
James William Guercio, who had been a DePaul University student of music as well, moved the band out to Los Angeles and he would become their manager and producer. The Big Thing would become The Chicago Transit Authority, and then simply, Chicago. The plan from the beginning was to start a horn centered Rock and Roll band, a Rock and Roll band with a horn section, a Rock and Roll band with horns that were an integral part of the music, a Rock and Roll band whose horn section formed the heart of the band, a Rock and Roll band with a horn section that was another lead voice dancing with the vocals. Chicago's use of brass and woodwinds was like no other band. They took what is called a "melodic" approach to the horns rather than a "harmonic" approach. The horns actually acted as an additional vocal line, not just performing fill rifts. This is what was innovative about Chicago. Chicago was a rock 'n' roll band with horns, and a band way ahead of its time.
True to the need of the album-oriented rock format that launched them, the first four albums released by Chicago between 1969 and 1972 comprised three double albums and one quadruple album. That's 10 albums in three years. Chicago's next five albums: Chicago V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX all hit number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, and included Chicago's eighth member, percussionist and conga player Laudir De Oliveira, who would remain with the band for their next five albums: Chicago X, XI, Hot Streets, 13 and XIV. Chicago took America and the world by storm without the help of their faces. Total subjugation of individual ego to the collective good of the group was the rule in Chicago, even to the point of using a logo rather than a picture of the band on all of their album covers. Chicago refused to emphasize celebrity over the music. The group turned its anonymous, professional air into a virtue and a marketing strategy. They were the faceless band behind a logo. Chicago's logo and its facelessness were very much in keeping with the style of the late '60's that valued group effort over individual ego. The group would come to be identified by a logo, and that logo, designed by Nick Fasciano, would become the most famous logo in Rock and Roll history. Some people though would offer a more sinister viewpoint of the logo, suggesting that management used the fact that nobody really knew what the members of Chicago really looked like as a reminder that nobody in the band was irreplaceable. Inspired by classical music, Chicago chose to number most of their albums with Roman numerals instead of giving them full names.
In 1969, Chicago released their first album, and to this day, it is considered to be one of the greatest groundbreaking albums ever produced in the history of Rock and Roll; that album being The Chicago Transit Authority. It was a blend of jazz, classical, and straight-ahead rock and roll. It included an unheralded synthesis of electric guitar rock and roll to more deeply rooted jazz influences and arrangements. It was funky, melodic, emotive, and politically intoned. I'm guessing most people in this room tonight have never listened to The Chicago Transit Authority. You can not buy a Chicago greatest hits record and understand what I'm talking about, but there are so many people that I am speaking for tonight who know exactly what I'm talking about. When The Chicago Transit Authority was released in 1969, it seemed to be the perfect synthesis of everything that was diametrically opposed. It had smooth, lush harmonies, it had the distorted feedback-drenched pyrotechnic guitar works of Terry Kath, it had the Beatles-meet-Motown bass works of Peter Cetera, it had the Buddy Rich-meets-Mitch Mitchell drum works of Danny Seraphine, it had the churning Hammond organ and classical piano works of Robert Lamm, and it had those powerful horns of Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, and James Pankow weaving in and out of the arrangements, ending up toe-to-toe with everything else, and it all worked. The dynamics were perfect. The Chicago Transit Authority seemed to have everything in the right place. The horn section, the vocalists, and the rhythm section were tight and unified. Individually, the members of Chicago were all outstanding on their respective instruments. Unlike many bands of the era that utilized session musicians for their recordings, Chicago was completely self-contained.
Chicago's first 11 albums all showcased the impeccable musicianship of all the members of the band. At first, Chicago's sound was a hard sell. Radio stations wouldn't play their songs. Chicago's music was not easily identifiable what it was. Chicago could not be pigeonholed. Their sound met with resistance. Record executives turned to Guercio, and Guercio edited a number of Chicago's songs to make them shorter and more radio friendly. It was a compromise to be on the radio, and it was what it was. You can still listen to all of the band's songs in their entirety on all the early Chicago albums; it's the radio versions of the songs that are shorter. Basically, the songs were made shorter because as Robert Lamm put it, Chicago's music wasn't for people with Attention Deficit Disorder. You know, because those are the people who listen to radio (people with A.D.D). As the '70's became the '80's and the demands of the music industry started to change, Chicago went looking for a new record label. During Chicago's search for a new record company, one label said to them, "If you get rid of the horn section we'll sign you," to which Chicago responded, "Go fck yourself!" Asking Chicago to get rid of the horn section is like asking Elton John to get rid of the piano, as James Pankow once said. Chicago would go on to sign with a new record label, and the horns stayed, and the band played on for forty more years.
Question: What do you get when you mix the voice of Ray Charles with the voice and the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix? The answer is Chicago's first lead singer and lead guitarist, Terry Kath. Terry Kath had a very soulful quality to his voice and he was an outstanding, superb, deep and wicked virtuoso of a guitar player. One of the best examples of Terry Kath’s brilliant guitar playing can be heard on the hit single 25 Or 6 To 4 from Chicago’s second album. The song's distinctive descending riff has been murdered by as many beginning guitarists as has been done with Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." The terrifyingly brilliant guitar solo performed by Terry Kath-a mountain few players ever dare to climb-is what makes 25 Or 6 To 4 absolutely essential. It is one of the greatest moments in Rock history for the electric guitar. The song's rather mystical title is just a reference to the time of day the song was written: 25 (or 26) minutes to 4 A.M. In a group known for its horns, it was Terry Kath's hard-edged guitar and soulful vocals that kept the band rooted in rock and roll. Chicago's line-up for such a large band was astonishingly stable, broken after eleven years and eleven albums only by the death of Terry Kath. After Terry Kath's tragic death in 1978, Chicago could have gone on to produce albums under a different name, they could have dissolved their band completely with each member going off to do other musical projects, or they could have just left the music business altogether and done other things with their lives, but they didn't. Chicago soldiered on for another forty years with the help of other notable lead rock guitarists, from Donnie Dacus and Chris Pinnick, to DaWayne Bailey and Keith Howland.
Chicago's second lead singer was Robert Lamm, an ambitious composer and piano player whose songwriting talents made him the default leader of the band in the early years. The Robert Lamm-penned hits included, Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Questions 67 & 68, Saturday in the Park and of course the afore mentioned, 25 or 6 to 4. His clear baritone voice was an asset, as were his stylized keyboarding skills. The International press portrayed Robert Lamm as Chicago's social conscience, and many of his best songs (Dialogue, Free, Harry Truman, State of the Union) all espoused political themes. Some of Robert Lamm's compositions had a swing feel to them as well. Frank Sinatra could have handled Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, very well. Actually, as the story goes, it was Colour My World, a portion from trombonist James Pankow’s Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon that Frank Sinatra wanted to do a remake of. It never happened though because Frank Sinatra wanted James Pankow to write an additional verse for it, and James Pankow wouldn't do it. You don't mess with a classic, even if the chairman of the board himself asks you to. Other Chicago songs penned by James Pankow included the hits, Make Me Smile, Old Days, Just You 'n' Me, I've Been Searchin' So Long, and Feelin' Stronger Everyday. That last one, by the way, was written by James Pankow and Chicago's original bass guitarist and third lead singer, Peter Cetera—the elastic tenor voice who was brought in to hit the high notes and keep up with the horn section, which the baritone voice of Robert Lamm and the gruff voice of Terry Kath couldn't.
If you were to ask any Chicago fan or Rock music historian to name the first three Chicago songs they think of when they hear someone say the name Peter Cetera, they will all tell you the exact same thing—what else but the smoochadelic classics, If You Leave Me Now, from the 1976 Chicago X album, Baby, What A Big Surprise from the 1977 Chicago XI album, and Hard To Say I'm Sorry from the 1982 Chicago 16 album (the comeback album). The sexiest, the sweetest, the most distinctive tenor voice in all of Rock And Roll history belongs to Peter Cetera mthrfckrs! There is no comparison. “High above shimmering, echoing ballads and rock-solid choruses that aim for the bleachers, Cetera’s tenor voice soars like a bird in flight. If it doesn’t strike you deep in your heart, it’ll at least stick deep in your head.” That's what an unknown source from Rolling Stone Magazine's website once said about Peter Cetera. Well Peter, I would like to tell you tonight on behalf of all your fans that your voice has actually done both for us. Your voice has struck us deep in our hearts and it is stuck deep in our heads and that is where we want it and that is how we like it! In May of 1985, after 18 years with the band, and after Chicago's biggest commercial success (the Chicago 17 album), Peter Cetera left Chicago for a solo career. Let's just say that things got really ugly. It was like a divorce, as Peter would say, and that's all I'm going to say about that because I wasn’t there, and I don’t know all the details, and it's none of my gddmn business! So, out walks Peter Cetera and in walks singer/songwriter and bass guitar player Jason Scheff, the son of Jerry Scheff, who was a bass guitar player for Elvis Presley. Jason Scheff has been with Chicago now for 30 years. To tie this whole thing together, I have to take you back to 1981 because that was the year that singer/songwriter, keyboard player and guitarist, Bill Champlin, the lead singer of the late 60s and 70s psychedelic rock band, the Sons of Champlin, joined Chicago and played a huge role in the success of Chicago 16 and 17. During his 28 years with Chicago, Bill Champlin's husky voice was the perfect complement to both, Peter Cetera and Jason Scheff. Chicago 18, 19, Twenty-1, Night and Day, Stone of Sisyphus, Chicago XXX, and a whole bunch of greatest hits and Christmas albums all included Bill Champlin and Jason Scheff.
And finally, Chicago's original drummer; its backbone, Danny Seraphine. During his time with Chicago, Danny Seraphine played drums in a style that, ironically perhaps, can best be described as lyrical. To be a good drummer one must develop his own technique. Good timing and good taste is essential, but it is the technique that sets the truly great drummers apart from the rest, as Danny Seraphine once said. After 25 years with the band, let's just say a little more drama ensued, and Danny Seraphine was replaced by drummer Tris Imboden, who has been with Chicago now for 25 years. And that folks was Chicago. 50 years, 50 albums, 5 number one albums, 130 million albums sold worldwide, 50 hits, and 3 number one songs later, Chicago is being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Now I am going to present you with information that must be stated! According to Billboard chart statistics, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American Rock and Roll band of all time, in terms of both albums and singles. The number one Billboard charting Rock and Roll band of the 1970s was Chicago! The Top 4 charting Rock And Roll bands of all-time on both, the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, and the Billboard 100 Singles Chart just happen to be the same four bands on both lists, and this is how the lists read: Number 1 - The Beatles! Number 2 - The Rolling Stones! Number 3 - The Beach Boys! And at number 4, (all together now) Chicago! And in case you are wondering who's at number 5, it's The Bee Gees! And that says it all right there folks! And up until tonight, Chicago was the only band on those lists who had not been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet! Also, of the 15 acts who were nominated for the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Chicago was the best-selling and highest Billboard charting act on the nominees list. So it makes sense that Chicago won the official 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame online fan poll. Chicago fans came out in full force and made sure that Chicago would finish at number one! They voted early and they voted often, as they were told to do!
And you know what's funny? First, a Chicago politician named Barack Obama is elected the first black President of the United States of America in 2008. Then, in 2010, the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, but their first Stanley Cup since 1961, the year of Barack Obama's birth. Then in 2013 the Chicago Blackhawks win their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history and their second during the Barack Obama presidency. Then in 2015 the Chicago Blackhawks win their sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history and their third during the Barack Obama presidency. Then, what do you know, Chicago, the band, is finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, during the Barack Obama presidency, but Chicago the band isn't black, but they did play Rock and Roll, which stems from the blues, which is the music of black people as Jann Wenner said at the 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in reference to the induction of Little Walter. Walter is also the name of Chicago's saxophone, clarinet and flute player (Walter Parazaider that is). Well, you know what they say, things always happen in threes, and in this case it's Barack Obama, the Chicago Blackhawks, and Chicago the band. But wait, there's more! The next president of the United States of America, to be elected this year, in November 2016, could either be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders graduated in 1964 from the University of Chicago, and Hillary Clinton was born in Chicago in 1947, the same year that Chicago's trombone player James Pankow was born. Hillary Clinton is married to Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States of America. Bill Clinton's favorite band is Chicago, and Bill Clinton is a saxophone player like Chicago's Walter Parazaider. And now I am going to make a prediction. I predict that this coming June, the Chicago Blackhawks will win their seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history and their fourth Stanley Cup during the Barack Obama presidency. And all I have left to say is that it's about fckng time Chicago got inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because this is Chicago mthrfckrs! This isn't Boston or Kansas, if you know what I mean! So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, CHICAGO!!!
THE 2016 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
01. Walter Parazaider (1967-Present: saxophone; clarinet; flute; songwriter)
02. Lee Loughnane (1967-Present: vocals; trumpet; flugelhorn; songwriter)
03. James Pankow (1967-Present: vocals; trombone; songwriter)
04. Robert Lamm (1967-Present: vocals; piano; keyboards; songwriter)
05. Terry Kath (1967-1978: vocals; guitar; songwriter)
06. Peter Cetera (1967-1985: vocals; bass guitar; songwriter)
07. Danny Seraphine (1967-1990: drums; songwriter)