Thursday, December 17, 2015

One group, two news stories, 37 years apart . . .

On the morning of January 24, 1978, probably around 5:30 a.m., I was lying in bed with my radio on.  My room was dark because it was very early in the morning, and while I knew I'd have to eventually get up, I didn't want to.  My radio was on either Y95 or Q105 FM, and I'm pretty sure it was Y95.

I was listening to the half-hour news.  After a commercial break, the newscaster came back on.  I still remember his words and my exact reactions:

"One of the members of the group Chicago . . ."

I smiled to myself, because they were my favorite rock band and I always enjoyed hearing news about them.

" . . . has accidentally killed himself."

Bang!  A hit to the gut.

"31-year-old --" and I hit the dial knob.  I didn't want to hear it.  I was thinking to myself.  "Not Terry.  Not Peter.  Not Bobby.  Please."

I turned the dial down to Q105 because I knew they had news on at a quarter to the hour.  And I made myself listen this time.

It was Terry Kath, lead guitarist of Chicago, dead at 31 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  He was playing with a gun, pointed it at himself, and said, don't worry, it's not loaded. The clip was out of the gun, but a bullet had been left in it.  That was the bullet that killed him.

It was Chicago's low point.  They were never the same after that.

I was 14 years old, and heartbroken.  And I told no one.  My daydreams to that point had included being a member of a rock band, and one of the bands my fictional band would meet and play with was Chicago.  Both before and after Terry's death, my little-girl diaries were filled with information and daydreams about Chicago.

As little girls do, I grew up, and I put away the daydream of being part of a rock band (although I still sing).  But I never forgot Chicago.

This morning, at about 10 after 5 a.m., I was lying in bed with my radio on.  My room was dark because it was very early in the morning, and while I knew I'd have to eventually get up, I didn't want to.  My radio was on WSB-FM, 95.5.

I heard the opening riff of "25 or 6 to 4" and I suspected I knew what the news was.

"Chicago is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

I pumped my fists and whispered, "Yes!"

Thirty-seven years, ten months, and 23 days after the shattering announcement I heard as a little girl, I got to hear what I hope is Chicago's high point.

I was 52 years old, and delighted.

For years, Chicago fans like myself have seethed over Chicago's exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Their first album was released 46 years ago.  They have long since met the criteria of having released their first album 25 years ago.  Their fans are legion, and the group still tours to this day to rousing applause.  It's been said that a member of Chicago insulted Rolling Stone founder Jann Werner, and that Werner, as a result, wouldn't let them into the RRHOF.

When the most recent nominees were announced a few months ago, Chicago was there.  I don't know how they got there, but they were there.  Eager fans, including myself, raced to their official website and voted over and over and over and over . . . When the fan voting finished. Chicago ranked #1 with 23% of the vote.  (Yes, I know that plenty of people voted more than once; I freely admit, I voted multiple times.)

The fans spoke, and apparently, Jann Werner and company finally listened.  They will be inducted in April, 2016.

(For the record, the five new inductees are Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and N.W.A.)

Okay, perhaps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is nothing but a popularity contest and a shrine to the ego of Jann Werner.  And this blog entry will probably mean very little to anyone except those who are Chicago fans; those who, like myself, enjoyed their music from the 1970's, and others who have more recently discovered them.

But I find it fitting that at Chicago's low point and high point, I was in exactly the same place:  lying in the dark, listening to the radio.

From a little girl who loved your music who grew up to be a woman who still loves your music, congratulations.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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