In his book “The Soundtrack of My Life,” Clive Davis writes, “Every year their (the jazz-rock band Chicago’s) fans lobby relentlessly for them to be nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor the band very much deserves. So far, however, those efforts have been unsuccessful.”
Davis might be a little biased given that he signed Chicago and oversaw their initial period of success during the years he headed Columbia Records. However, even a completely unbiased view would indicate Chicago should be in the RRHOF.
Formerly the Chicago Transit Authority, the band shortened its name in the late 1960s when threatened with a lawsuit by then-mayor Richard Daley. The jazz-rock fusion ensemble usually consisted of seven or eight members, with a rhythm and a horn section. The group numbered their albums consecutively using Roman and later Arabic numerals, for example, “Chicago V,” “Chicago 17,” etc. They started as an album-oriented band that released long-form material, but later shortened their songs to accommodate single releases and Top 40 radio.
The group “got sick and tired of songs getting chopped up (to be played on radio),” said drummer Danny Seraphine, as reported in “The Billboard Book of Number One Albums.” So they decided to edit their own material by making the songs shorter.
The results were an amazing career producing 35 Top 40 hits, 20 Top 10 songs, three number one singles, seven number one adult contemporary hits, and five number one albums, according to “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits.”
Along with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago proved that a “rock band with horns” could work. Among American rock bands, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys in chart success, and according to “Billboard,” Chicago was the most successful American group on the singles chart during the 1970s, the band’s most dominant decade. Chicago came to specialize in soft-rock ballads, but they could also do progressive rock album tracks like “I’m A Man.”
Although the band tragically lost vocalist and lead guitarist Terry Kath to an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1978, and saw the departure of lead singer and songwriter Peter Cetera in 1985, much of the core of Chicago has been together for over 40 years and they have produced 22 gold albums. Davis was right in his assessment that the band should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“The Soundtrack of My Life,” Clive Davis, Simon and Schuster, 2012
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Albums,” Craig Rosen, Billboard Books, 1996
“Chicago: 25 Years of Gold,” Audio CD, Chicago Records, Inc., 1995