Sun’s coming up, watching it slowly set

There’s something about watching a sunrise or sunset that brings inner peace and serenity. For the past ten years, I have been fortunate to live on Santa Monica Bay, a gorgeous swath of Pacific coastline which essentially runs in an east-west direction instead of the north-south path that most of the California coast follows. This affords us the rare opportunity, at certain times of the year, to watch both the sunrise and the sunset over the ocean.

Early morning surfers in Pacific Palisades pause to watch the sun rising behind them in the east

As an amateur photographer, I’ve taken hundreds of photos of sunsets (and a few sunrises) I’ve witnessed while living here, two of which I share with you.

Beachcombers take in a gorgeous sunset at the Pacific Palisades coast

Both events can be spiritual experiences, offering inspiration and a comforting sense of life’s cyclical nature. Sunrises and sunsets have certainly energized songwriters through the years, which sent me on a search for songs about sunrises and sunsets. I came up with a diverse set of tunes, mostly from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s but also a few from more recent years. I hope you find them appealing.

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“Sunrise,” Eric Carmen, 1975

Carmen attended a suburban Cleveland high school not too far from where I grew up, and led the marvelous power pop band The Raspberries through the 1970-1974 period. From his 1975 solo debut, the single “All By Myself” may have gotten most of the attention (along with the follow-up, “Never Gonna Fall in Love again”), but the album’s opening track, “Sunrise,” is by far the better song. It’s big and glorious and dramatic, with lyrics that offer hope for a new beginning: “Sunrise, come wrap me in the warmth of your crimson sky, /I spent a long time believing in a dream that had passed me by, /But the moon and stars have gone, and I can see the light of dawn, /Like a golden smile, brightening up the morning sky…”

“Tequila Sunrise,” The Eagles, 1973

In late 1972, when Glenn Frey and Don Henley decided they wanted to try writing their own songs, this was the first one they attempted. Frey came up with the opening guitar strum and basic melody while Henley tweaked it and added the lyrics. Frey was reluctant to use the title, which was a popular drink at the time, but Henley pointed out it could also refer to a guy drinking tequila all night and staying up to watch the sun come up. In the bridge, when Frey sings, “Take another shot of courage,” he was referring to tequila, which helped him work up the nerve to approach a pretty girl. Oh, and in case you were wondering — it’s made of tequila and orange juice over ice with a drop or two of grenadine and a maraschino cherry.

“Watch the Sunrise,” Big Star, 1972

This band should have been one of the biggest sensations of the ’70s and beyond. Lead singer Alex Chilton was the guy from The Box Tops who, at only 17, sang like a man twice his age on the definitive version of “The Letter.” With his new collaborator Chris Bell, he formed Big Star in 1972, writing original music in the same vein as The Beatles, The Stones and The Byrds. Despite rave reviews and a loyal cult audience, poor promotion and distribution plagued their short career. On their debut LP “#1 Record,” you’ll find an acoustic pieced called “Watching the Sunrise” that’ll have you scratching your head wondering why you haven’t heard of them: “Open your eyes, fears be gone, it won’t be long, /There’s a light in the sky, it’s okay to look outside, /The day it will abide, and watch the sunrise…”

“Sunrise,” Uriah Heep, 1972

Uriah Heep is regarded as one of the pioneers of hard rock and heavy metal, and maybe purveyors of prog rock as well. Between 1972 and 1974, they put four consecutive albums in the US Top 30 album charts. On “The Magician’s Birthday,” the band showcased their hard rock side with singles like “Sweet Lorraine” and “Spider Woman.” Opening the album was “Sunrise,” which featured keyboardist/guitarist Ken Hensley using hard/soft musical passages while focusing lyrically on how the soothing power of the sunrise can ease the pain of a romantic breakup: “Sunrise, and the new day’s breakin’ through, /The morning of another day without you, /And as the hours roll by, no one’s there to see me cry except the sunrise, /The sunrise and you… /Sunrise, bless my eyes, catch my soul, make me whole again…”

“At the Sunrise,” Chicago, 1971

Chicago burst on the scene with the innovative, creative “Chicago Transit Authority” album in 1969, followed by a second album that included “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World” and “25 or 6 to 4.” By their third album, they struggled to come up with much in the way of memorable music, but one worthy track is Robert Lamm’s melodic “At the Sunrise,” featuring Lamm and bassist Peter Cetera sharing lead vocals, and that solid, sublime horn section adding their magic. These lyrics center on a couple who must separate for a spell, but he’s coming back to enjoy another sunrise: “How could I be happy without her by my side? /Without her smiling face at the sunrise?…/I know she understands me, she knows I’m feelin’ bad, /Until I’m back beside her at the sunrise…”

“Sunrise,” Simply Red, 2003

To me, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall has one of the best voices of the past thirty-plus years. He belts out R&B, rock, dance pop, ballads, you name it, all with skill and grace. In the UK, all 12 Simply Red album from 1985-2019 charted in the Top Five, with multiple hit singles as well, but in the US their success was mostly limited to two hit singles, “Holding Back the Years” and a cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” What a shame — so much great music on their LPs. Consider “Sunrise,” a huge international hit in 2003 from their “Home” album, but virtually ignored here. It samples liberally (and with permission) from the arrangement of Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That,” and that’s fine with me.

“Heart of the Sunrise,” Yes, 1971

Most of the lyrics in Yes’s catalog are cosmic and vague at best, and nearly indecipherable at worst, but so much of the progressive rock music they made is so engrossing that it doesn’t much matter. The words sound good even if their meaning is lost on me in many cases. In “Heart of the Sunrise” from Yes’s biggest-selling album, “Fragile,” Jon Anderson doesn’t seem to be talking about sunrises in the traditional sense but, well, I guess everyone is free to make their own interpretation: “Love comes to you, and you follow, /Lose one, on to the heart of the sunrise, /SHARP! /DISTANCE! /How can the wind with its arms all around me, /Lost on a wave, and then after, /Dream on, on to the heart of the sunrise, /SHARP! /DISTANCE! /How can the wind with so many around me, lost in the city…”

“(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” Duran Duran, 2004

With more than 100 million albums sold internationally, Duran Duran ranks among the most commercially successful bands ever, although I wouldn’t consider myself a fan. As agents of the New Romantic scene that emerged in the UK in the early ’80s, they benefited greatly from the MTV era, with splashy videos getting heavy airplay. Their popularity continued well into the ’90s, and then again in the 2000s. “Astronaut,” their 2004 release which reached #5 in England and #17 here, included “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” a surefire Duran Duran hit in many countries that never caught on in the US, for some reason. Its oft-repeated chorus shouts with great hope and promise: “Reach up for the sunrise, put your hands into the big sky, /You can touch the sunrise, feel the new day enter your life…”

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“Waterloo Sunset,” The Kinks, 1967

One of the major crimes in the history of rock music is that “Waterloo Sunset” wasn’t the major success in the U.S. that it was in the U.K., Europe and Australia. Ray Davies, whose songs made The Kinks tick, wrote it in 1967 as “Liverpool Sunset,” as he was enamored with the Merseybeat sound that produced The Beatles and others. It recalls The Fab Four’s “Penny Lane” in some ways, perhaps too closely, so he changed its imagery to London, specifically the Thames River and Waterloo Station. Its delightfully complex musical arrangement belied its simple lyrics about a couple looking for peace amidst chaos: “Millions of people swarming like flies ’round Waterloo underground, but Terry and Julie cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound, /And they don’t need no friends, as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset, they are in paradise…”

“English Sunset,” The Moody Blues, 1999

I’ll bet you didn’t know The Moodies were still releasing great new music as recently as 1999. They were arguably the true trailblazers of progressive rock, beginning with 1968’s “In Search of the Lost Chord,” and although they leaned more toward commercial pop later on, they did it with style and grace. This is due in large part to the fine songwriting and singing of guitarist Justin Hayward, who wrote most of the group’s hit singles (“Question,” “Story in Your Eyes,” “The Voice,” “Your Wildest Dreams”). From their 1999 album “Strange Times,” it seems as if “English Sunset” should’ve made that list, but it went nowhere on the charts here nor, strangely enough, in England. “I want to ride the range across those skies of black, I want to see for myself, and see me coming back, /And when I’ve gone the distance, I’ll be making tracks for an English sunset…”

“Sunset Drivers,” Lee Ritenour, 1984

Ritenour is an accomplished jazz guitarist who came out of L.A. in the late ’70s as a disciple of the great Wes Montgomery. Beginning in the ’80s, he began integrating elements of pop into his music, which brought him into the light jazz camp of George Benson. With Eric Tagg on vocals, Ritenour reached #15 on the pop charts in 1981 with the single “Is It You?” from his album “Rit.” His 1984 album “Banded Together” was a curious mix of drum machines and synthesizers but also the esoteric jazz fusion he was known for. Somewhere in the middle was “Sunset Drivers,” again with Tagg on vocals, describing the quasi-reckless drivers who populate Sunset Boulevard in west L.A.: “Comes a West Coast sundown, shadows on this million-dollar playground, /Sunset drivers, time to hit the street… /You gotta take it across the wire, they’re right behind you like a house on fire…”

“Red Sails in the Sunset,” Fats Domino, 1964

The famed Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy teamed up with Wilhelm Grosz back in 1935 to write the love song “Red Sails in the Sunset,” inspired by his view of a boat with red sails that often went for sunset cruises off the Northern coast of Ireland where he lived. It became a popular standard beginning in the late 1930s, recorded by such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Guy Lombardo and Louis Armstrong. In the ’50s came Nat King Cole and Paul Anka, and The Platters’ version in 1960 reached #36 on the pop charts. The late great Fats Domino added it to his repertoire, reaching #35 on the charts in 1963: “Red sails in the sunset, way out on the sea, oh, carry my loved one home safely to me, /She sailed in the morning, all day I’ve been blue, /Red sails in the sunset, I’m trusting you…”

“Sunset Grill,” Don Henley, 1984

When The Eagles first broke up in 1981, songwriters Henley and Frey each mounted solo careers with multiple chart successes. From his “Building the Perfect Beast” LP, Henley scored a Top Five hit in 1984 with “The Boys of Summer,” which offered indelible imagery about the L.A. beaches as summer wound down. Another big single for Henley that captured the edgy mood of the Hollywood scene was “Sunset Grill,” reaching #22 in 1985. It was based on a real burger joint on Sunset Boulevard that attracted all types. It lasted another decade until 1997, when it was torn down and replaced with a new Sunset Grill that’s still there: “Let’s go down to the Sunset Grill, watch the working girls go by, /Watch the ‘basket people’ walk around and mumble, and gaze out at the auburn sky…”

“Wasted Sunsets,” Deep Purple, 1984

Deep Purple was among the British bands who spearheaded the hard rock later perfected by Led Zeppelin. Emerging in 1968 with their “Shades of Deep Purple” and the #5 hit “Hush,” they became darlings of the U.S. rock press throughout the early and mid-’70s. Albums like “Machine Head” and the live “Made in Japan” helped the band sell out many of their performances here during that period. After a few years off, the core group reunited in 1984 with “Perfect Strangers,” which included guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore as well as vocalist Ian Gillan. The track “Wasted Sunsets” featured lyrics that, following a romantic breakup, bemoaned sunsets experienced alone: “One too many wasted sunsets, one too many for the road, /And after dark, the door is always open, hoping someone else will show…”

“California Sunset,” Neil Young, 1985

From his early days with Buffalo Springfield all the way up to current days, Young has marched to his own drummer, offering radically different styles on successive albums: hard rock, country, pop, proto-grunge, rockabilly, electronica, folk rock… In the mid-’80s, following the unlistenable dissonance of “Trans,” he did a 180-degree turn and offered “Old Ways,” perhaps his deepest dive into country music. One track, “California Sunset,” used fiddles to help paint a down-home tribute to the West Coast, a far cry from the bitter cold of his Canadian prairie homeland: “Land of beauty, space and light, /Land of promise, land of might, /You’re my home now, and it’s true, /California, here’s to you… California sunset going down in the West, /All the colors in the sky kiss another day goodbye…”

“Two Suns in the Sunset,” Pink Floyd, 1983

After a spectacular run of #1 albums and sold-out arenas in the 1970s, the members of Pink Floyd were at each other’s throats by the time they began recording what became “The Final Cut” in 1983. Leader Roger Waters had assumed dictatorial control of the group, alienating guitarist/singer David Gilmour and the others. Most of “The Final Cut” were leftovers from “The Wall” sessions, and it shows. An exception is “Two Suns in the Sunset,” Waters’ stark vision of nuclear apocalypse, in which the second sun is the glowing fireball of an atomic bomb: “In my rear-view mirror, the sun is going down, sinking behind bridges in the road, /I think of all the good things that we have left undone, /The sun is in the east even though the day is done, /Two suns in the sunset, could be the human race is run…”

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I found two songs that cover both sunrise and sunset:

“Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” Ryan Hurd, 2020

Ryan Hurd is an acclaimed Nashville songwriter who has not only written #1 hits for Blake Shelton, Lady A and Luke Bryan but has established himself as a fine performing artist in his own right. In 2018, he married superstar Maren Morris, and the couple had a big hit together this year with “Chasing After You.” Bryan went to #4 in 2018 with “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” a happy love song whose title now adorns t-shirts and lake-house kitchen walls. Co-written by Hurd, Zach Crowell and Chas McGill, the song was recorded by Hurd last year for his “EOM” EP, and I think his rockified version beats Bryan’s by, um, a country mile: “Moonlight, all night, crashing into me, nothing will ever be easy as you and me, /Tangled up and nowhere to be, just sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat…”

“Sunrise, Sunset,” Zero Mostel and Maria Karnilova, 1964

“Fiddler on the Roof” was the longest running Broadway play of all time until it was topped by “Grease” in the ’70s. Based on the Joseph Stein book, the production featured music by Jerry Bock with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and many of the songs are among the most popular show tunes ever: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “To Life,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and especially “Sunrise, Sunset,” with lyrics that make use of the daily rising and setting sun to lament the inexorable passing of time. On the soundtrack album, actors Zero Mostel and Maria Karnilova mourn the fact that their children have grown up: “When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small? /Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset, /Swiftly flow the days…”

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Only the beginning, only just a start

Periodically, I use this space to pay homage to artists I believe are worthy of focused attention — artists with an extraordinary, influential, consistently excellent body of work and/or a compelling story to tell. In this essay, I take a slightly different tack with an in-depth look at a band with whom I’ve had a love/hate relationship. They’ve enjoyed considerable commercial success with different lineups, playing several very different musical styles from Big Band rock to sentimental ballads to synthesized pop, selling many millions of albums and singles, and are still active into their seventh decade, but I can’t say I count myself among their longtime faithful fan base. That band is Chicago.

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In the long-ago summer of 1969, I was 14 and seriously ramping up my modest record collection. I had abandoned the practice of buying 45-rpm singles and embraced the idea of owning albums instead. I bought LPs by The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, and I became drawn to the music of more boundary-expanding artists like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and Blind Faith.

My friend Steve was similarly tuned into new bands that weren’t Top 40, and he’d periodically show up at my house with albums he thought I might like. One such record was a double album called “The Chicago Transit Authority.” Its most noticeable characteristic was that it had very prominent horns — trumpets, trombones, saxes — on pretty much every track. This was a substantial departure from the guitars-bass-drums-organ lineup of most bands at that time. No rock band I knew used horns beyond the occasional sax solo.

I was totally taken by this music. Growing up in a household with a father who often played Big Band, swing and Sinatra records, I loved the sound of a vigorous horn section, but as a kid of the ’60s, I also loved rock and roll. Now, on this “CTA” album, I had a merger of these two things — a rock band with horns. How cool was that?

The opening track, the aptly named “Introduction,” had lyrics that came right out and explained Chicago‘s mission:

“We’ve all spent years preparing before this group was born, /With Heaven’s help, it blended, and we do thank the Lord, /So this is what we do, sit back and let us groove, and let us work on you…”

Boy, they worked on me, all right. The great melodies, the infectious rock beats, ferocious electric guitar solos, strong lead vocals and harmonies, and the dominant, thrilling horn parts combined to create something really dynamic. I simply couldn’t get enough of this stuff: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Questions 67 and 68,” “Someday,” “South California Purples,” “Listen,” “I’m a Man” and especially the exhilarating “Beginnings,” still one of my all-time favorite songs.

Only eight months later, the band made the unheard-of move of releasing another double album as their second release, this time titled simply “Chicago.” Again, the seven-piece group bowled me over with instantly likable songs (“Movin’ On,” “The Road,” “In the Country,” “Wake Up Sunshine, “Fancy Colours”), smart arrangements and solid musicianship across the board. The chief difference was that this time, the group found themselves riding high on Top 40 charts in 1970 with three big singles: the exuberant “Make Me Smile,” the guitar-driven rock classic “25 or 6 to 4” and everyone’s favorite prom slow-dance tune, “Colour My World.” Now I found myself sharing the magic of Chicago with every pop-loving teen in town, and I found that vaguely unsettling.

At this point the band was touring non-stop, performing nearly 300 gigs a year to capitalize on their chart success. I saw them do a show in a gymnasium at John Carroll University in Cleveland at this juncture and was totally impressed by their energy and tight ensemble playing.

L-R: Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow,
Lee Loughnane, Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath

So it was very disappointing to me when they felt the need to release a third double album, “Chicago III,” in early 1971. Clearly, they had been overworked and stretched thin, because there weren’t more than two or three memorable tracks to be found. Three sides were taken up by grandiose “suites” filled with listless instrumentals, banal lyrics about eating Spam for breakfast (?) and meandering solos with little melody anywhere. If not for the vibrant “Free” and “Lowdown,” it would’ve been pretty much a total washout. Even the record label chose to go back to the debut LP and re-release “Beginnings” and “Questions 67 and 68” as singles since there was nothing suitable on “Chicago III”…

To make matters far worse, Chicago’s next move was a live album, which was in vogue at the time, but they turned a week-long stint at Carnegie Hall into a bloated four-album set completely lacking in the excitement I’d heard in concert only 10 months earlier. I think I listened to it only once, maybe twice, before getting rid of it. One of my worst album purchases ever.

The next summer, the band wisely focused on just nine quality tracks to comprise “Chicago V,” a single album that offered a return to solid melodies, integrated horn charts and great vocals. On the singles charts, “Saturday in the Park” was just about as much fun as “Beginnings” or “Make Me Smile.” Still, the adventurousness and immediacy which had so enthralled me when they entered the scene in 1969-1970 seemed to be missing (for me, at least), even though “Chicago V” became the first of five consecutive LPs to reach #1 on the album charts.

I need to mention one nagging truth about Chicago that bothered me from the outset. They (mostly keyboardist Robert Lamm, evidently) had a penchant for making political statements in some of their songs that, while well-intentioned, usually came across as simplistic and lame. A typical example is “Dialogue (Parts I and II),” which was curiously popular as a single in 1972. With lyrics written as a conversation between an activist and a clueless college student, the track was designed to coax people to take to the streets and speak out against war, injustice, etc. Its awkwardness made me cringe, and still does.

From that point on, I basically lost interest. I can’t deny the continuous stream of hit singles were engaging, even infectious — “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” “Just You ‘n Me,” “Call On Me,” “Old Days,” even the Peter Cetera heartbreaker ballad “If You Leave Me Now.” But I couldn’t get motivated to buy the albums. I guess the sheen had worn off for me, and I’d moved on to other bands, other genres.

Terry Kath

Chicago had always been one of those bands that remained an essentially faceless entity. Its members could go out in public and be unrecognized, and they liked it that way. Still, I was among many music industry observers who assumed the band would hang it up in 1978 following the unfortunate death of guitarist Terry Kath, Chicago’s inspirational leader and best instrumentalist. The idea that Chicago was “a rock and roll band with horns” pretty much died with Kath, as his fiery guitar work was the key ingredient in their rock band credentials. Indeed, no less a guitar god than Jimi Hendrix had been quoted in 1970 as saying, “Terry Kath plays better than me.”

But no. The band hired the first of several replacements for Kath, and soldiered on. Chicago, whose Roman numeral-titled albums were a source of some ridicule from those who labeled their music “corporate rock,” endured a comparatively fallow period during which their so-so chart performance matched their tired formula on the records. By 1982, Columbia Records, their label from the beginning, let them go.

This didn’t stop them from shopping around for another label and producer. Full Moon Records took the bait, and with notorious Canadian pop producer David Foster at the helm, Chicago re-emerged with an altogether different sound, still carried by bass player Peter Cetera’s strong tenor voice but now doing material written by outside songwriters, with almost no horns in sight. Veteran musician Bill Champlin joined the ranks, playing a substantial role in the soft-rock sounds favored by Foster and Cetera. The resulting album, “Chicago 16,” found a new, younger audience who responded favorably to the ’80s version of the group. Cetera’s smooth “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry” put them back at the top of the singles chart.

No longer filling stadiums or arenas, Chicago was now playing smaller halls as they built their new audience. I was reviewing concerts for a Cleveland newspaper at the time, and saw them at the Front Row, an intimate theater-in-the-round venue, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show. The new songs didn’t do much for me, but it sure was great to hear the old stuff, both the hits and deeper album tracks.

Peter Cetera

Lamm, who had been such an important singer and composer for the band, became almost invisible as Cetera assumed the role of Chicao’s pretty-boy front man singing songs co-written for him by Foster and others. These tunes charted well (“Hard Habit to Break,” “You’re the Inspiration,” “Along Comes a Woman”), but their success went to Cetera’s head, who left the band in 1986 for a solo career and chose not to maintain ties with the group. He was famously absent when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

A guy named Jason Scheff, a bassist with a tenor voice eerily similar to Cetera’s, joined in 1986, and he and Champlin became Chicago’s primary singers for the next five years, and through the ’90s and 2000s as well. Scheff got off to a rocky start when Foster made the misguided decision to feature a radical reworking of “25 or 6 to 4” as the first single from “Chicago 18,” which thankfully stalled at #48. Still, it was newcomer Scheff’s vocals that carried “Will You Still Love Me?” and “If She Would Have Been Faithful…”, both Top 20 hits.

Over the past 30 years, Chicago has remained a commercially viable band, touring periodically and releasing numerous greatest hits packages, a Christmas collection and even a winning tribute to Big Band music (a couple tracks are included in my Spotify playlist). But “Chicago XXX” in 2006 has been their only studio album of new original material since 1991.

Recently, I was urged to sit down and watch “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago,” an award-winning documentary on the band, its successes and struggles, and I gotta tell you, it was an entertaining and eye-opening two hours well spent. It incisively tells the band’s story from initial rumblings up to the mid-2010s, and I urge anyone with even a passing interest in Chicago’s music to check it out. It’s currently available on Amazon.

I learned, for instance, that the three guys who have been Chicago’s consistent horn section for the entire life of the group — sax man Walter Parazaider, trombonist James Pankow and trumpeter Lee Loughnane — were all classically trained musicians who were headed for careers in the symphony until they were bitten by the rock and roll bug. That threesome, and Lamm and Kath, each logged thousands of hours practicing and gigging with fledgling bands in the Chicago area, honing their musical chops until they met up in 1967. Their mission, said drummer Danny Seraphine, was to blend the musical trends and traditions of their city — blues, jazz, rock, Big Band — into a brand new style and a new band that they initially called The Big Thing.

The excesses that plagued so many ’70s groups — The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin — took their toll on Chicago as well, according to the documentary. Original manager/producer Jim Guercio had played fast and loose with the band’s finances, pouring them into a new studio in Colorado and failing to pay royalties. Cocaine use among the band was rampant and destructive, negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. New members didn’t join the lineup seamlessly.

Chicago has always had its detractors. A review of the documentary in The Chicago Reader by a fellow named Bill Wyman (not the former Stones bassist) described it this way: “It’s an altogether fitting testament to Chicago’s hippie self-absorption and dopey excesses, all far out of proportion with both the amount of listenable music Chicago produced and its musical importance.” Ouch.

The venerable horn section: Pankow, Parazaider and Loughnane

But I’ll always have a soft spot for Chicago, if only for those first two groundbreaking albums that dared to fully integrate horns into a professional rock band. Thanks, guys, for bringing that dream to fruition all those years ago.

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The Spotify playlist below is, as you’d expect, heavy on the first two albums, but there’s also a hefty dose of material from their later work. Nearly every studio album is represented with at least one track in order to provide you with a representative cross section of Chicago’s entire career arc.