If Rahm Emanuel wants to unite Chicago, he should start by reuniting the band Chicago.
The classic rock band, which was formed at DePaul University in the mid-1960s, will be playing at Emanuel’s inaugural party (the free one, not the one that costs $50,000). The problem is, it’s not the Chicago most of us remember from slow-dancing to “Colour My World” at the senior prom, or making out to “You’re the Inspiration” in a Chevette.
Chicago was distinctive not only for its horn section, but for rotating the lead vocals among three members: Terry Kath, Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera. Kath died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1978, so not even Rahm is powerful enough to bring him back for “Make Me Smile.” But Cetera quit the band in 1985, so he could sing pap like the theme from "Karate Kid II." Chicago had one final #1 hit -- “Look Away” -- then disappeared from the charts.
The enmity between estranged Midwestern classic rockers can be stronger and deeper than the hatred between blood enemies (see Gary Richrath and REO Speedwagon, or Dennis DeYoung and Styx.) Cetera has compared Chicago to an “ex-wife.” Not only has he refused to play with the band that made him famous, but he refused to allow VH1 to use any of his compositions for Chicago’s “Behind the Music” episode. On the show, Lamm complained that Cetera's compositions had changed the band's image from "avant garde" to "kinda wimpy." It's true that Chicago XVII sounds more dated than Chicago II.
Chicago found another bass player with a high tenor voice, but it’s not the same. This new guy is from San Diego. Cetera grew up in Morgan Park and attended Mendel High School. Rahm, your old boss Bill Clinton ended 29 years of warfare in Northern Ireland by negotiating the Good Friday agreement. This Good Friday, you can end 26 years of warfare between Peter Cetera and Chicago by getting them to agree to reunite for a concert on Northerly Island.
Let them know what you’ve been letting the rest of us know: that your inauguration is the city’s biggest event since the Columbia Exposition. The premier of Manitoba persuaded the Guess Who to reunite for the Pan Am Games in their hometown of Winnipeg. Tell Cetera his fellow Chicagoans want to hear him sing “25 to 6 to 4,” not some sound-alike poser.
If you can pull this off, Rahm, you’ll not only earn a reputation as a peacemaker, you’ll get in good with half of Chicago’s population. As the Heineken Light ad says, “If you love the ladies, then by default, you love Cetera.”
And if you can deliver Cetera, then by default, the ladies will love you.