For more than 50 years the sound of our city has been heard in the music and words of the band Chicago, sometimes edgy and tough, other times sensitive and lyrical.
The band was preforming in Las Vegas when the lights went dark and the Strip shut down March 14, due to the coronavirus. Band members headed to their homes. But over the past weekend, we reunited some of them to talk about the power of music in a time of great need.
“Two weeks ago, in Las Vegas, we knew something was about to happen, but we didn’t know how big,” said Robert Lamm, a vocalist and keyboardist for the group.
We met up online with Lamm, Neil Donell, Lou Pardini, Jimmy Pankow and Lee Loughnane to talk about the power of music in a time of crisis.
“I think music can speak to anyone, internationally,” said Loughnane, who along with Lamm and Pankow, is one of the three remaining founders of the legendary rock-and-roll band.
Music, said Lamm, has a healing effect. “On an emotional level it really has healing powers. It just takes us away from our troubles.”
“I went downstairs this morning and played the piano and it just made me feel better,” chimed in Lou Pardini.
Chicago was formed on February 15, 1967, when three DePaul University students -- Loughnane (trumpet), Pankow (trombone) and Walt Parazaider (saxophone) -- joined Roosevelt University’s Robert Lamm, along with guitarist Terry Kath and drummer Danny Seraphine. Over the decades the group, which has undergone numerous revisions, has recorded 36 albums and sold over 100-million records, according to its website.
Like chorus and verse, the rhythm of life plays out for us all.
In 2014, we headed out on a bus with Chicago as they prepared to perform a free concert for the people of Washington, Illinois, where large parts of the town were devastated by an EF4 tornado.
Then in 2016, long shunned by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band was finally welcomed into the pantheon of Rock and Roll.
Now, in 2020, the coronavirus has attacked and colored our world in red.
“My brother and sister who are in New Jersey and in Chicago, as a matter of fact, everybody’s doing well,” said Loughnane from his home in Sedona, Arizona.
All reported their families are safe. “Everybody’s fine, thank God,” said Pankow from his Nashville home.
Music, said singer Neil Donell, who joined the group in 2018, is a “beautiful distraction.” He spoke to us from his home in Canada.
Forging “Old Days” with new “Beginnings” the group has provided Chicago -- and the world -- with a catalogue of memorable songs, evoking ”a thousand different feelings.”
“Speaking for all of us, we feel for all of the people in Chicago,” said Pankow. “And we pray and think of all the people in the city of Chicago and surrounding areas very, very earnestly and we all come out of this on the other side, shining like you know what.”
“You know we are going to need to hang together and use all our resources to, to overcome,” observed Lamm.
Including music and the memories it brings.
“It touches you. I think it is a universal salve especially in tough times like we are experiencing now,” said Pankow.
A beautiful distraction in a time of crisis.