Make Me Smile by Chicago (Columbia, 1970)

To know the band, Chicago is to know Terry Kath. Terry was the heart & soul of the band, the band’s lead guitarist, occasional lead singer and on-stage leader. And when he died in January 1978, he left a void in the group never to be fully filled. In fact Chicago had to completely reinvent themselves to stay (commercially) alive.

Terry was also one of Jimi Hendrix’ favorite guitarists and got the band an opening slot on a late 60s Hendrix tour when they were known as Chicago Transit Authority (or CTA). But as much as Terry could shred, the thing that made Terry unique, in my opinion, was his voice. The deep dark tone that coated Terry’s words gave his songs a sense of false sadness just as Peter Cetera’s tenor gave his songs a sense of false optimism. (Of course by album V, that all changed for Peter). Listen to him sing (at the bottom) in broken prose, the opening lines of the song:

Children play
In the Park
They don’t know
I’m alone
In the dark
Even though
Time & time again I see your face
Smiling inside

These words can have many differents depending on how they’re sung. When Terry sings them, he sounds like a world-weary depressed old man who’s lost his youth and his love. Terry was only 23 at the time when it was recorded.

The song was actually part of a seven-song suite on side 2 of Chicago II, called Ballet for A Girl In Buchannan. Written by James Pankow, it was an ambitious attempt at long format classical music cycle, with 3 of the parts instrumental. The 45 edit of Make Me Smile included a piece of the last song in the cycle, Now More Than Ever and was originally released with Colour My World as the B-side, also sung by Terry. (Colour My World would get re-released as the B-side to Beginnings in 1971, as well as become a radio and wedding staple.)

Make Me Smile became the 1st in a long line of Top 10 records for Chicago as well as scaring/fascinating the hell out of me. And can someone explain to me why the biggest selling American band in history outside of the Beach Boys is NOT in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

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2 Comments

  1. kblumenau

     /  September 1, 2011

    Another interesting thing about Terry Kath: If I remember correctly, he was self-taught, with no formal musical training.
    (The liner notes to the CD reissue of Chicago VII talk about the challenge Kath faced: Unlike the others in the band, he did not read music, but had to tackle a more jazzy and complicated set of songs. He prepared in his own way and impressed his bandmates by nailing the songs.)

    Reply
  1. Sentimental Lady by Bob Welch (Capitol, 1978) « 7 Inches of 70s Pop

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