They’re still here: Chicago celebrates 40 with a tour

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They’re still here: Chicago celebrates 40 with a tour


Chicago, the U.S. pop band, is coming to Seoul later this month as part of its world tour. The band currently consists of eight members, pictured from left: Lee Loughnane, Walt Parazaider, James Pankow, Robert Lamm, Lou Pardini, Jason Scheff, Keith Howland and Tris Imboden. Provided by the organizer

Remember the songs “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard Habit to Break”? If you are humming those tunes in your head right now, that means you know or are at least familiar with the music of legendary U.S. pop rock band Chicago, which was founded in 1967 and became popular in the 1970s and ’80s.

Chicago is reported to be one of the most successful bands in American music history. Since its debut, the band has produced more than 30 albums, 18 of which earned Platinum status on the U.S. Billboard chart, and sold more than 100 million records around the world. Chicago also ranks as 13th after The Beatles, who were first, on the All-time Top Artists category on the Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary Chart released in 2008. Other artists on that list include Elvis Presley, who ranked fourth, and Michael Jackson, who was eighth on the list.

What may come as a surprise is that the band, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, is still in full swing. After its first visit to Korea in 2003, Chicago will return to Seoul later this month as part of a world tour that also includes stops in Japan and the Philippines.

While it is reported that Chicago gives more than 100 concerts a year - even now - Robert Lamm, a vocalist and keyboard player who is one of the founding members of the band, said in a recent e-mail interview with the JoongAng Daily that what keeps the group going is simply the music itself. Following are some excerpts from the interview.

Q. What about your band and music do you think has appealed to fans around the world for so many years?

A. I really believe that the key is the songs and the way that we have arranged them from the very beginning until now. If someone listens to our albums from the first to the last, they will find that the songs still sound fresh today.

[Our songs are] completely original. We didn’t want to imitate the music of other bands, but just wanted to make own music.

This is your second visit to Seoul. What was your impression of Korean audiences when you first visited in 2003?

I remember that the audiences were very enthusiastic and I had a feeling that many Korean people knew Chicago’s songs very well. I felt that Korean fans really love music, and we were happy to be there as Chicago.

The band uses many musical instruments, including trumpet, trombone and saxophone. How does that change your sound?

The brass section helps diversify the music. As with “Saturday in the Park” most of our songs use horns and that is definitely what gives the band a different texture and color in our songs. Obviously they are more jazzy and more fusion [than other pop and rock songs].

Can you tell us how you’ve been able to maintain your consistency as a band over the past 40 years, even with the changes in personnel you’ve experienced?

Our unchanging principle is that we impose a very high standard for choosing, composing, recording and performing our songs. That is really unchangeable and what we have maintained for the last forty years.

So many of your albums and songs have been popular. But what would you recommend for the younger generation who wants to know more about the band and its music? How can they connect to the Chicago sound?

People new to our music should listen to our first album and Chicago V, as well as Chicago XXX and Chicago XXXII. If they listen to those four albums, they will be able to sense the joy that we had making this music.

Chicago still does over 100 performances a year. What keeps you going?

It’s very easy. Playing music and travelling make us happy and helps us take care of ourselves. If you see us live, you will not believe we are 50 or 60. We also have some guys who are younger than 40. And we all still look good.

By Park Sun-young []
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