Wow, I can’t believe it. You blink and then it’s 33 years later…
It seems like yesterday I walked up the driveway to Danny Seraphine’s house to audition to become the new tenor lead vocalist for the iconic band Chicago. Yes, I too was a big fan of Chicago’s music… At the time they were dominating pop radio with mega hits such as “You’re The Inspiration”, “Hard Habit To Break”, “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”… and this was just on Pop radio. We’re not even going into classic radio with the countless hits the band had racked up to essentially revolutionize pop music in the 70s.
And here I was, this 23 year old kid from San Diego… smoking too much pot, doing some other stuff that I’m not terribly proud of, but I was walking up the driveway to take my chance at joining this supergroup. The only thing I had that made me even think of walking up that driveway was that they had let me know they wanted it to work out with me. Still, there was something in my mind that didn’t quite compute it all. How do you really feel comfortable in that kind of scenario? You don’t… and you just follow through.
So I walked up, the guys were all very cordial, and we went about our business… the audition. I’ve written about it in the past so I don’t need to go into detail here but suffice it to say, I’m sure I wasn’t blowing them away with my frontman prowess… but, they heard something, and gave me the shot. And again, I’ve written about it before so I won’t go into detail here but that period was one of the greatest personal transformations I’ve ever been through and I will forever be indebted to those 6 guys for that day, the many days ahead of it and to be standing here 33 years later to look back on it all… all the friends we’ve made along with way out in this big, beautiful world who show up and let us know what it’s meant to them. I get it now… it’s not about me. It’s not about any of us, individually… it’s collectively and the stars have aligned, and they still do, to create these experiences and memories.
Shortly after I joined the band I went to Jimmy Pankow’s 40th birthday party! Can you imagine that? I remember it like it was yesterday. All the photos up of him around the restaurant in Malibu… high school graduation photo… early photos of success with the band… and I was sitting there marveling… “Wow, you, IN this family now! And these guys are all turning 40 years old!” I was well aware that I represented a youthfulness that was going to be helpful to the band and I embraced that responsibility and looked to the leadership of the collective group… they had all gone through their own personal growing up through their 20s, as I was 23 years old at the time, and I felt ultra fortunate to be looking at a team that was, as I said before, dominating pop radio and I just slotted right in to the format. We recorded, we released singles and they became some of the band’s biggest hits of our career. Wow… invited to participate in that. And whenever I speak like this, for some reason, some people take it as I’m suggesting I’m self deprecating, undermining my contributions and accomplishments or feigning false humility with the “I’m not worthy!” (fishing for a complement), phrase… no, not doing that at all. I take full credit for my accomplishments… following one of the greatest voices in any era of music, Peter Cetera, doing my best job I could and racking up my own numbers. I’m just, truly, honored to be a part of it.
But enough about me! What do YOU think about me? HAAAAAAAAAA. Sorry… had to do it.
This is about Danny’s night. Danny turned 70… can you believe it? And as they say, and they’re right… (who is *they* anyway?), 70 is the new 50, if you’re taking care of yourself… and Danny is… just look at him.
And there we were last night… lots of people I haven’t seen in ages… namely his kids… I mean his youngest daughter Taryn, (who organized the party), wasn’t even TALKING yet when I first met them! Running around in PJs and not quite talking yet. Turns out she’s a GREAT singer!
Lots of friends we’ve made along with way… and there I was, sitting with 2 men I collaborated with to make some of Chicago’s biggest hit singles…
Danny, Bill Champlin and me. We haven’t hung out in ages and let me tell you… what an incredible feeling to sit with the team that brought you hits such as “Will You Still Love Me”, “Look Away”, “I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love”, “What Kind Of Man Would I Be”… wow… as so many of you know, I’m the guy who in the middle of these types of accomplishments internally is taking it in as a fan… remembering hearing “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” when it came on the radio realizing Chicago was BACK! And here are 2 of the guys I’m standing with last night who made THAT record! I mean, can you imagine? One day I’m driving my car over Laurel Canyon in LA and this record comes on the radio and my mind was BLOWN!
Actually, I had met Champlin and we had worked on some small things together… (I was just a bass player on that stuff… no WAY was I going to open my mouth in front of THIS guy! This guys is a REAL singer!)
But here it was… “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and there’s Danny Seraphine DRILLING the drums on that song… Not to mention what these 2 guys would do on the next album, Chicago 17… “You’re The Inspiration”, “Hard Habit To Break”, “Stay The Night”… and this is the setup for me to walk in to try and help this thing continue? Impossible… but it wasn’t. It worked. To imagine a mere 3 years later I’d be making Chicago 18 with them and being in the same category of topping the Billboard music charts? Unfathomable…
So again, here we were last night… after all the years… after all the things that go along with being in a band and spending so much time together… being able to sit there and take it all in… to realize in this moment when the world is changing at breakneck speed, we have a chance to be together… I must say, as I woke up this morning and reflected on it… it chokes me up.
We’re 3 astronauts who not only flew up to but walked on the moon, several times. And we can relate to each other… and the thing I take from the experience is that life is screaming by… we’re not going to be here forever so take in the moments, and I do. Just as I always have along with way… no matter what’s been going on… I’ve always had an eye on things paying attention and taking it all in. Just like last night. Seeing all these people… friends and family of Danny Seraphine celebrating his 70th birthday. And it makes me want to make music with these guys again. You never know…
If you feel compelled, please leave a comment on what this music has meant to you. And thank you all for being on this great ride. I love you all and I can speak for my brothers they feel the same way.