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Rock group. Chicago was founded in 1967. Musicians in the band include Walter Parazaider (woodwinds), Terry Kath (guitarist), Danny Seraphine (drummer), James Pankow (trombone), Lee Loughnane (trumpet), Robert Lamm (keyboards, vocals) and Peter Cetera (vocalist, bassist), Jason Scheff (bass, vocals), Bill Champlin (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Tris Imboden (drums), Keith Howland (guitar).

Walter Parazaider showed musical promise early on. His father, a working musician, encouraged Parazaider's artistic leanings and, by the age of nine, the young boy was well on his way to mastering the clarinet.

He remained devoted to his classical music pursuits throughout his adolescence, but around this time he began diversifying his musical tastes. As Parazaider studied his instrument and primed himself for his dream—a spot in the Chicago Symphony—he discovered "you could make a buck and get some girls" by playing in a rock band. During this time, he befriended guitarist Terry Kath and drummer Danny Seraphine. The trio formed the band Missing Links, and they began performing at local dance halls.

Parazaider enrolled in Chicago's DePaul University in the early 1960s to study education, but quickly switched his major to music. He began toying with the idea of creating a new, unprecedented kind of rock band—one with a central horn section. It wasn't until Kath introduced trumpeter Lee Loughnane to the group that Parazaider's dream band began to take shape. He then contacted fellow DePaul student and trombonist, James Pankow, as well as keyboardist Robert Lamm, inviting them to hash out plans for a new musical group.

Each member had learned a variety of styles while playing for the many different racial and ethnic groups that populate Chicago. Paramount for this nascent group was creating a rock 'n' roll band with horns. At the time, R&B artists like James Brown were upping the ante for horn sections, but it had not been attempted within the context of a rock band. This musical fusion struck the lovely chord that became Chicago.

Initially called The Big Thing, they hit the Midwest club circuit in 1967. In December of that year, The Big Thing opened for the popular Midwestern band The Exceptions. Deeply impressed with the group's bassist, Peter Cetera, Parazaider lured the musician into their ranks. In 1968, they took the name Chicago Transit Authority (soon simplified to Chicago), moved to Los Angeles and signed to Columbia Records.

The ambitious double-record, Chicago Transit Authority, hit record store shelves in 1969. The album became a college radio darling, and in May of 1969, it peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard charts. Shortly after the release, the band shortened its name to Chicago. After their first release, Chicago began the unique tradition of naming its records with Roman numerals, echoing the practice of classical composers who often organized their works this way. In the rock world, this is forever identified with Chicago.

Chicago II (1970), another two-record set, contained their first two Top 10 hits: "Make Me Smile" and "25, or 6 to 4." Their debut album held two more belated hits and also two of the band's most requested songs, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" and "Beginnings," both written and sung by Robert Lamm. A third double album, Chicago III (1971) solidified their success.

In the fall of 1971, 18-year olds were finally given the right to vote. The band met with Ralph Nader, Senator William Fulbright, and politician Philip M. Stern to help determine ways to boost voter registration. The band registered voters at their concerts, and included voter info in their four-disc boxed set, Chicago At Carnegie Hall (1971). The next year, Chicago V (1972) topped the charts for nine weeks and spawned the gold single, "Saturday In The Park."

The band took a break from touring in 1973 to work on producer James Guercio's film, Electra Glide in Blue (1973), which starred Robert Blake and featured Kath, Loughnane, Parazaider and Cetera. The group didn't take time away from recording, however; Chicago VI was released in 1973 and stayed at No. 1 for five weeks. The album contained the hits "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," and "Just You 'N Me," the latter of which was a No. 1 hit and a gold single.

Chicago VII (1974) was yet another No. 1 LP for Chicago. The album included the hit single "Wishing You Were Here," which featured musical icons The Beach Boys. During recording the bands forged a mutual friendship, and together they embarked on a sold-out nationwide tour.

Chicago VIII (1975) had the group's fourth straight chart topper, the nostalgic hit "Old Days." Their next album, Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits (1975) eventually sold five million copies. But it was Chicago X (1976), the recipient of three Grammy Awards, that featured the band's biggest worldwide No. 1 hit of the 1970s: "If You Leave Me Now." The lovely ballad catapulted Chicago into the highest levels of popular success. Another ballad, "Baby, What A Big Surprise," was the major hit off Chicago XI (1977). In 1977, the band was awarded for their success with the "Favorite Rock Group" title at the American Music Awards.

In early 1978, tragedy struck when guitarist Terry Kath was killed in a shooting accident. Devastated by the loss of their friend, the band nearly broke up, but eventually resolved to continue. To perpetuate Kath's memory, the band created a permanent scholarship in his name at DePaul's School of Music. Later that year, the band released Hot Streets (1978), which became another million-seller. Subsequent releases, Chicago 13 (1979) and Chicago XIV (1980), brought the band to the end of its contract with Columbia Records, who then released Chicago's Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981).

After 15 years together, Chicago signed a long-term contract with Warner Brothers Records, and then recruited veteran Bill Champlin and turned to producer David Foster. The result was the million-selling Chicago 16 (1982), featuring the gold single "Hard To Say I'm Sorry."

 

Their next record, Chicago 17 (1984), was a landmark success for the group. Propelled by the mega-hits "Hard Habit To Break," and "You're The Inspiration," the album sold more than 7 million copies. In 1986, the band was again awarded "Favorite Rock Group" at the American Music Awards. Chicago 18 (1986) yielded the hit "Will You Still Love Me?" and Chicago 19 (1988) was another smash, featuring three Top 10 hits: "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love"; the No.1 Grammy-nominated song "Look Away"; and "You're Not Alone." A fourth song from the album, "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" became a hit in 1989 when it was included on Greatest Hits (1982 - 1989).

Chicago's good fortune continued to grow throughout the 90s. The band released Chicago Twenty 1 in 1991. A year later, on July 23, 1992, the group was honored with their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1994, the rights to Chicago 's Columbia albums reverted back to the group, and they founded Chicago Records to reissue them.

Chicago's next album was a departure from their typical fare. Night & Day (Big Band) (1995), released on Giant Records, featured the band's take on reworked swing-era standards. The album won critical acclaim for classics like "In The Mood," and "Moonlight Serenade." In 1996, Chicago experienced another first when they headlined at the Hollywood Bowl, playing with the famous Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

In 1997, Chicago released their 30th Anniversary celebration record, The Heart of Chicago 1967-1997. It was here that the opportunities to work with famed producer Glen Ballard, celebrated composer James Newton Howard, as well as musician Lenny Kravitz presented themselves. The album was quickly certified gold, and featured the No. 1 hit, "Here In My Heart."

In 1998, the band followed up with The Heart of Chicago 1967 - 1998 Volume II, which represented another fresh collaboration—in this case with Roy Bittan of the E Street Band. Subsequently, the band entered the studio to record an entire album with Roy Bittan. The result was Chicago 25, their first holiday album. The release was certified gold in 1999. That same year the band released the live album Chicago 26.

In 2004, Chicago made headlines by partnering with their friends Earth, Wind & Fire for one of the most inspired co-headlining runs in recent concert business memory. A DVD of the tour, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire: Live At the Greek Theatre was certified platinum less than two months after release.

In 2006, Chicago released its 30th album, Chicago XXX. Produced by Jay DeMarcus of the superstar country group Rascal Flatts, Chicago XXX found a large audience of music fans. That same year, the group performed with the University of Notre Dame's marching band during halftime—the first such invitation in Notre Dame history.


In December of 2007, Chicago was honored by the Chicago History Museum with a special exhibit, showcasing historical pieces and band memorabilia. The next year, Billboard Magazine named its Top 100 Artists of All Time. Chicago landed at No. 13, just behind artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. Rhino Records also put out an album of previously unreleased Chicago songs in 2008 called Stone of Sisyphus. The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition was released later that same year.

Chicago's current projects include appearances on the Biography Channel's The Chris Isaak Hour, as well as the Ellen DeGeneres and Craig Ferguson shows. In April, Madacy Records, in conjunction with Rhino Entertainment, will release a greatest hits compilation album. In addition, Chicago will reunite with the group Earth, Wind & Fire for their third co-headlining US summer tour. Chicago will also perform numerous headlining shows, both in the US and abroad.

Chicago continues to entertain audiences, both young and old. Their record sales top the 1 million mark, and include 21 Top 10 singles, five consecutive No. 1 albums, five No. 1 singles, 13 platinum albums and five gold singles. Of their 30 albums, 25 have been certified platinum. Chicago is also the first American band to chart Top 40 albums in five different decades.


© 2009 A&E Television Networks. All Rights Reserved.

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