Chicago is a well-known American rock band. The Chicago discography consists of 11 studio albums, 4 live albums, and 24 singles. Read more in detail here: chicago discography.
Chicago is a musical powerhouse. Not only does Chicago have the expert musicians, but they also have some of the most iconic songs in history with classics like ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and The Waves, which was written by two members of Queen.
Chicago’s music scene has impacted American culture as much as any other city in America and will continue to do so for years to come.
According to Billboard chart data, Chicago is the second most successful American rock band of all time, behind only the Beach Boys in terms of albums and singles. If that fact comes as a surprise, it’s because Chicago has been underappreciated since the beginning of their long career, both for their musical ambitions (rock is only one of several styles of music that can be used and blended, along with classical, jazz, R&B, and pop) and for their refusal to place celebrity above music. By those measures, Chicago has accomplished what they set out to do. They’ve been able to fill stadiums with happy fans from the beginning of their career as a national act. Beyond the amazing sales and chart numbers, their music has lasted, with tens of millions of people immediately recognising it.
In the mid-’60s, Chicago, Illinois, saw the convergence of two different but intermingling musical strains: an academic approach and one originating from the streets. All three were DePaul University music students: reed player Walter Parazaider (born March 14, 1945 in Chicago), trumpeter Lee Loughnane (born October 21, 1946 in Chicago), and trombonist James Pankow (born August 20, 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri). They did, however, moonlight in the city’s clubs, where they met less formally educated but no less talented players like guitarist Terry Kath (born January 31, 1946, in Chicago; died January 23, 1978, in Los Angeles, California) and drummer Danny Seraphine, who played everything from R&B to Irish music (born August 28, 1948, in Chicago). Most rock bands in the mid-’60s used the Beatles’ instrumentation of two guitars, bass, and drums, while horn parts were only heard in R&B. However, in the summer of 1966, the Beatles utilized horns on “Got to Get You into My Life,” and mainstream music, as is customary, followed suit. The Buckinghams, a Chicago band headed by a friend of Parazaider’s, James William Guercio, had a national success with the horn-filled “Kind of a Drag” towards the end of the year, which went on to number one in February 1967.
That was all the motivation Parazaider and his companions needed. On February 15, 1967, Parazaider convened a gathering of the future band at his flat, inviting a brilliant organist and vocalist he had met, Robert Lamm (born October 13, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York). Lamm agreed to participate and also said that he could provide the group with the needed bass notes by utilizing the organ’s foot pedals (a skill he had not actually acquired at the time).
The new band practiced in Parazaider’s parents’ basement before starting to obtain concerts around town under the moniker the Big Thing, developing a repertoire of James Brown and Wilson Pickett songs. They were soon performing all across the Midwest. Guercio had become a staff producer at Columbia Records at this point, and he pushed the band to start writing original music. The idea was taken up by Kath and, in particular, Lamm. (As time went on, Pankow became a key member of the band’s writing staff.) Meanwhile, Peter Cetera (born September 13, 1944 in Chicago), vocalist and bassist for a competing Midwest band, the Exceptions, decided to defect and join the Big Thing, transforming the sextet into a septet. This gave the ensemble the unique flexibility of having three main singers: Lamm, a silky baritone, Kath, a gruff baritone, and Cetera, a tenor. Guercio returned to visit the group in late winter 1968 and determined that they were ready for the next stage. He paid for their relocation to Los Angeles in June 1968.
As the band’s manager and producer, Guercio had a lot of control over them, which eventually became a problem. The band members were initially prepared to live in a two-bedroom home with Guercio, rehearse constantly, and alter the band’s name to one of his choice, Chicago Transit Authority. Guercio’s increasing influence at Columbia Records allowed him to sign the band and establish the band’s unique image. He persuaded the label to allow this inexperienced band release a double album as their debut (on the condition that they consent to a royalty cut), and he determined that the band would be represented on the cover by a logo rather than a picture.
Chicago Transit Authority, which was released in April 1969 and charted in May, coincided with the band’s national tour. Without the help of a big single, the album made it to the Top 20 by July. It became an underground success after being picked up by free-form FM rock stations. By the end of the year, it had been certified gold, and it had sold over two million copies. (The band performed at the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival in September 1969, and the promoter managed to get the rights to film the performance.) Since then, the same lo-fi recording has appeared on a slew of albums, including Anthology, Beat the Bootleggers: Live 1967, Beginnings, Beginnings Live, Chicago [Classic World], and Chicago Live, to name a few.
Guercio was surprised when the actual Chicago Transit Authority contacted him, objecting to the band’s usage of the name; he replied by shortening the name to just “Chicago.” It was named Chicago when he and the group completed the second album (another double) for release at the beginning of 1970, but it has now become known as Chicago II.
Even before its debut song, “Make Me Smile,” reached the Hot 100, Chicago II soared into the Top Ten in its second week on the Billboard list. The single was an extract from a musical suite, and the band first objected to the trimming that was required in order for it to be broadcast on AM radio. But, like its sequel, “25 or 6 to 4,” it went on to enter the Top Ten. The album was soon certified gold and then platinum. Columbia released “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” from the group’s debut album as their second single in the autumn of 1970, giving them their third straight Top Ten success.
Another double album, Chicago III, was ready for release at the start of 1971, and it barely missed out on being the band’s third gold (and subsequently platinum) record. However, the band’s singles failed to chart, so Columbia reacted by releasing “Beginnings” (from the first album) with “Colour My World” (from the second), giving Chicago its fourth Top Ten hit. Next up came a live album, the four-disc box set Chicago at Carnegie Hall, which debuted in the Top Five and went on to sell over a million copies despite its size. (The band preferred Live in Japan, which was recorded in February 1972 and was only released in Japan at the time.) Chicago V, a one-LP set released in July 1972, spent nine weeks at the top of the charts and went on to sell over two million copies, thanks to the gold-selling Top Ten single “Saturday in the Park.” A year later, Chicago VI followed, achieving similar success with the Top Ten songs “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” and “Just You ‘n’ Me.”
“(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long,” the following Top Ten song, was released in anticipation of Chicago VII in late winter 1974. The album was the band’s third chart-topper in a row and their third million-seller. Its second Top Ten hit was “Call on Me.” Chicago VIII, released in the spring of 1975 and including sideman drummer Laudir de Oliveira as a full-fledged bandmember, produced the Top Ten hit “Old Days” and became the band’s fourth straight number one album. Following the profit-taking Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits in the autumn of 1975, followed Chicago X, which missed the top spot but went on to sell more than two million copies, thanks in part to the inclusion of the Grammy-winning number one song “If You Leave Me Now.” Chicago XI, released in late summer 1977, maintained the apparently unending run of success, hitting the Top Ten, selling a million copies, and spawning the Top Five single “Baby, What a Big Surprise.”
However, there was a problem lurking under the surface. The band’s major successes began to consist entirely of ballads performed by Cetera, frustrating the musicians’ artistic aspirations. They had struggled to gain critical acclaim, and what coverage they did get often referred to Guercio’s Svengali-like influence as manager and producer. Chicago was adamant on firing Guercio and proving that they could thrive without him. They were hit with a devastating blow not long after. On January 23, 1978, Kath, a gun aficionado, accidently shot and killed himself. He had a significant influence in the band’s direction, and his loss was incalculable, despite the fact that he, like most of the other members of the band, was not easily recognized outside the group. Despite this, the band remained together and continued on.
Donnie Dacus, a guitarist, was selected through tryouts and joined the band in time for the release of the band’s 12th LP, Hot Streets, which was given a non-numerical title and included prominent photos of the band members on the cover for the first time. The music was heavier rock, as suggested by the first single, the Top 20 smash “Alive Again,” and the band’s core fan base reacted, but Hot Streets was Chicago’s first album to miss the Top Ten since 1969. The Chicago 13 then fell short of the Top 20. (At this time, Dacus had left the band, and Chicago had recruited guitarist Chris Pinnick as a sideman, ultimately promoting him to full-fledged group member.) Chicago XIV, de Oliveira’s last album, was not a commercial success when it was released in 1980. By 1981, when the band’s 15th album, the under-appreciated Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, was released, the band had broken company with Columbia Records and was searching for a new direction.
They found it in writer/producer David Foster, who emphasized the band’s ability to create power ballads as performed by Cetera once more. They also hired Bill Champlin (born May 21, 1947 in Oakland, California), one of Foster’s favorite session players, as a full-fledged band member. Champlin, the former leader of the Sons of Champlin, was a multi-instrumentalist with a gruff voice that enabled him to sing sections that Kath had previously played. With these additions, the band signed with Warner Bros.’ Full Moon Records and released Chicago 16 in the spring of 1982, preceded by the hit song “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” which led to a big resurgence. The album helped Chicago reclaim their place among the top ten best-selling albums of all time. Chicago 17, released in the spring of 1984, was even more popular, becoming the band’s most successful album, with platinum certifications for six million sales as of 1997. “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration” were two of the album’s Top Five singles.
The newfound success, on the other hand, shifted the group’s long-established dynamics, establishing Cetera as a star. In 1985, he quit the band to pursue a solo career. (At the same time, Pinnick departed, and the band did not immediately hire a replacement guitarist.) As a substitute for Cetera, Chicago enlisted Jason Scheff, the 23-year-old bassist son of legendary bassist Jerry Scheff, a former Elvis Presley sideman. Scheff had a tenor voice that he used to imitate Cetera’s vocals on a number of Chicago songs. However, the breakup with Cetera had a detrimental commercial effect. Despite having a Top Five smash song in “Will You Still Love Me?” Chicago 18 only received a gold certification in 1986. The band bounced back with Chicago 19, which was released in the spring of 1988. “I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love” reached number five on the charts, “Look Away” reached number one, and “You’re Not Alone” reached number ten as the album went platinum. Another song from the album, “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” was featured in the Greatest Hits 1982-1989 (the 20th album) collection in 1989 and became a Top Five success, with the album selling five million copies by 1997.
Chicago experienced two additional personnel changes around the beginning of the decade, with guitarist DaWayne Bailey joining and founding drummer Danny Seraphine leaving, to be replaced by Tris Imboden. The band’s next album, Chicago Twenty 1, was rejected by Warner Bros. when it failed to sell well (though tracks from it did turn up on compilations). Chicago, on the other hand, had a devoted fan base that allowed them to tour effectively every summer. Bailey was replaced as Chicago’s guitarist by Keith Howland in 1995. The band recovered control of its Columbia catalog the following year, launching its own Chicago Records label to release the records. They also joined with Warner Music Group’s Giant Records for their 22nd album, Night & Day, a compilation of big-band classics that charted in the Top 100.
On Chicago Records, they released Chicago 25: The Christmas Album in 1998, followed by Chicago XXVI: The Live Album in 1999. The popularity of The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning proved that their music was still popular with listeners. Taking advantage of the newfound attention, the band resurfaced in 2006 with the Rhino release Chicago XXX. Rhino eventually released the rejected Warner album from 1993 as Stone of Sisyphus: XXXII two years later. Chicago toured extensively in the latter years of the 2000s, and for their 2011 album O Christmas Three, they reunited with producer Phil Ramone in the studio (aka Chicago XXXIII). They played often in the early 2010s, and embarked on many joint tours with the Doobie Brothers. The band revealed they’d started recording their new album in May of 2013, and released a few tracks here and there over the remainder of the year. They also made a stir at the 2014 Grammy Awards, when Robin Thicke joined them on stage to sing many of their hits. When Chicago XXXVI: Now was released in July 2014, it was their first compilation of original songs in eight years.
In 2016, Chicago was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Peter Cetera refused to attend. In 2017, CNN aired Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago, a two-hour documentary on the band’s history. Chicago Christmas, the band’s fourth holiday album, was released in 2019.
The “Chicago drummer dies” is a biography of the late Chicago drummer, Joseph M. “Mick” Schon. The biography includes songs and albums that he was involved in during his life. Reference: chicago drummer dies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Chicagos most famous song?
A: Happy Birthday to You is the most famous song in Chicago.
What song is Chicago famous for?
A: Im a Man of Constant Sorrow.
How many #1 hits did Chicago have?
A: Chicago had a total of 16 #1 hits.
- chicago songs in order
- songs about chicago 2020
- lead singer of chicago who shot himself
- chicago albums in order
- chicago band original members