It's getting old. We haven't left the Chicago area since February--and no plans to go anywhere. So Chicago songs are in my head. I was going to list ten of them, but in the great Chicago tradition, my late grandmother voted for an eleventh. So in no particular order, here are
The Les is More Sounds of Chicago
- Let's start with the schlock! Paper Lace's The Night Chicago Died imagined Chicago's own most-wanted, Al Capone, in a shoot-out with the Chicago Police Department. Incredibly, this hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Englands's Paper Lace a true USA one-hit-wonder.
- And talking about bad Chicago dudes, who can forget Jim Croce's Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown from the South Side of Chicago. What's the only thing wrong with this #1 hit? It was a poor knock-off of Croce's own You Don't Mess Around With Jim. If Croce had lived longer, maybe he would have sued himself.
- Another slickster to move through Chicago, traveling from L.A. to Key Largo was Sade's Smooth Operator. Ladies beware, this dude was only out to break your heart. As far as I know, Sade never sang about such a cool villain, or Chicago, again.
- Someone else just passing through Chitown? Good ole boy Lido in Boz Scaggs' Lido Shuffle. Another drifter looking for a big score in the City of Big Shoulders (and easy marks?)
- Listen carefully or you'll miss the reference to the "city by the lake" in the Smashing Pumpkin's Tonight, Tonight. For a Chicago born boy like Billy Corgan, what other city or what other lake could there ever be?
- With the end of the Democratic National Convention, and as we await the beginning of the Republican's revver, let's not forget Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Chicago, love-song to our fair city (not)--forever memorializing the battles in the streets during the Democratic Convention of 1968 and its courtroom aftermath. "Won't you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring."
- Then there is the sweet little number also titled Chicago, by the slightly unusual Sufjan Stevens. The number is on his album Illinoise which as you might have guessed is all about the 21st state to enter the Union. Does any radio station in town besides 'XRT play this song?
- Who remembers the Ides of March? Their biggest hit was certainly Vehicle but for my listening pleasure, their best song was the under-appreciated L.A. Goodbye with beautiful harmonies on the lyric "from the West side of Chicago," perhaps a salute to the town of Berwyn, the birthplace of the band.
- While we have vehicles on our mind, a shout out to Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah's classic Lake Shore Drive. No, there is no name-check of Chicago, but there is no doubt what this song is about.
- When should you come to Chicago? When the Levee Breaks, of course. An old blues number about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, but Led Zeppelin made it their own.
- The only choice with which to wrap up this list? Its got to be My Kind of Town (Chicago Is.) Did Frank Sinatra care a whit about Chicago? Who cares! At least he isn't singing New York, New York.
That is my list. What would be on yours?
Like what you read here? Add your name to our subscription list below. No spam, I promise!