Chicago still going strong after over 40 years

The band Chicago has been going strong for nearly 45 years, and they are in the middle of a world wide tour.

With countless hits like "If You Leave Me Now", "Saturday in the Park" and "25 or 6 to 4", the band continues to tour and produce, and they even have a new Christmas CD coming out next month.

I met with the band a couple of weeks ago when they played Ravinia outside Chicago, and we talked about how they have stayed together all these years.

What time it is does not seem to have changed the popularity of the timeless band Chicago.

While many hot rock groups from the 70's broke up, Chicago stayed true to their music and their fans.

Songwriter and keyboard player Robert Lamm, one of four original members, told me how a group of Chicago college kids who started playing are still together.

Lamm says, “The key is, at some point, about a dozen years ago, I remember sitting on the bus, and all of us sort of looking at each other and saying I guess music is our life.”

Lamm says he does not know why other bands break up, but he knows why Chicago works.

“We're all musicians, we're all productive, and we’re all interested. We're all engaged in music really on a day to day basis…That's really the secret.”

With the longest running horn section in history, trumpet player Lee Loughnane says this latest tour, which has taken them all over the world, has been right on.

Loughnane says, “You know, maybe we're figuring out how to put shows together...We enjoy playing music, probably more today than we did when we first got together…We went out in the beginning with just raw energy, this is what we sound like and you're going to like it. Now, we know more how to entertain people.”

Entertain they did with their hits from over the years and even a rousing sneak peak of their new Christmas album, their third, appropriately called, "Oh Christmas Three."

Lamm says they worked with legendary producer Phil Ramone in Nashville. He thinks it is their best yet.

Lamm says, “It's an album only Chicago could do, so the minute you hear any of the arrangements, you're going to know who it is.”

So, what advice does a seasoned musician have for young people today?

“Whatever your passion is, whether it be journalism or music or math, whatever is the thing that's easiest for you, that's when you think maybe I should do this for a living.”

That is good advice from a band that's been together for nearly 45 years and is getting stronger everyday.

On Tuesday, we showed you South Bend's Isabela Nanni who opened for the band at Ravinia. You can see that story here.

What you may not know about Chicago is the band’s love for Notre Dame.

It started when some members, as young high school musicians in Chicago, were taught by Father George Wiskirchen, who then became Notre Dame's band director.

It continued with their manager Peter Schivarelli, who was a walk on for Ara Parseghian and is a large contributor to all things Notre Dame.

Over the years, the band has donated proceeds from ticket sales to Niemann-Pick disease, Hannah's House and, more recently, to the American Cancer Society in the name of Pacqui Kelly, Coach Brian Kelly's wife who is a breast cancer survivor.

I'll have a lot more on that this Saturday during our award-winning Countdown to Kickoff show, when we feature Pete Schivarelli and the things he and the band have done and continue to do for Notre Dame.

My thanks to Chicago and Pete for allowing us to follow them at Ravinia.

For more information on Chicago, click here.

For more information on Isabela Nanni, click here.

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