Danny’s 70th
by on August 29, 2018 in Events

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.

Jason

28 Responses to Danny’s 70th

  1. MIKE PATTON says:

    Well, what can I say coach?…this music defined my childhood…esp. jr high through high school. Major influnce on me as a professional musician today. Great memories of days gone by…thank you. Not to mention I’ve met all 3 of you on several occasions, nothing but class! You guys should make music again!!

  2. Vic says:

    Beautiful to see Ace!!!!

  3. Patrick Raftery says:

    It was a sad day when you all left Chicago……I can tell you that, while the “core” still remains in tact (sort of), it’s not the same….I heard you at Saratoga Performing Arts Center….Tanglewood….and other venues at various make-ups of the band….but when they lost you three great musicians, nothing was the same…..

  4. Scott Jacobs says:

    It was this version of Chicago that just pierced my soul in the late 80s. I was just a 12 year old kid who loved Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and any group with great harmony. Then Chicago 18 came out and whatever magic David Foster created with the world class musicianship of Chicago literally captured my musical taste buds from that point forward. I went back and researched all of the earlier material from the 70s and gained an even greater appreciation for the artistry of this band. Quite simply, Chicago and all of their members have contributed to the soundtrack of my life for over 30 years now and I am passing the baton to my 9 and 11 year old who love the band as well. It all started in the Fall of ‘86 when I heard the sizzling vocals of a young tenor sing, “Take me as I am…..”

  5. Andreas Connel-Gripp says:

    Hey Jason, like you I was in my 20s during this era and song after song after song was incredible. I especially liked the tunes you and Bill shared vocally (along with Robert sometimes) like “One More Day” “I Believe” “Runaround” “Victorious” “Explain it to My Heart” etc. Maybe sometime Dawayne can join you on guitar and the 4 of you can jam/record again … Cheers!

  6. Jerry Trice says:

    Jason. Having known you since you were what, 14, I teared up every time I saw you with the band. I felt like a proud papa. Very proud!

  7. Jerry Trice says:

    Jason, since I’ve known you since you were what, 14, I teared up every time I saw you being amazing with Chicago. Like a proud Papa. Very proud!

  8. Shirley says:

    Wow Jason, what a wonderful heart-felt story. Thank you for sharing this with us…you write as well as you play music! Looking forward to hearing what comes next for you all.
    Sincerely,
    Shirley Delao

  9. Brian Cruz says:

    Jason, those are some great reflections of a great past! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the quote from the great John Lennon song…”life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” How true is that! What seems like yesterday is now 30 plus years down the road and and is a flash in the pan, and of course we all always say “only if I knew then what I know now!” I got the love for music from my mom and dad, but I got the inspiration and influence to learn and play trumpet from Chicago!Now 47 years later and 57 years old, I still play that horn every day and in many groups. I cannot imagine a day in my life without hearing or making music! What a dull world this would be without it. It’s universal and speaks volumes to the people. I thank all the musicians like you Jason and Chicago for the music you create and share that take us back to certain places and times in our lives that bring back those great memories that make us smile and cry! We are blessed because you are blessed. Carry on my friend and continue to be the musical soundtrack in a part of my life and so many others!! All my best, Brian Cruz

  10. Leonard Bernstein says:

    Jason what a beautiful night and report from you. I am a 60 year old Chicago fan and so thankful to you and all the members past and present. Urge you to use the force of your personality and talent to arrange maybe in 2020 a short Reunion Tour focused on raising millions for a key charity, and designed to thank fans of all ages by including all present and former members! You can make it happen! Len B. Labernst@gmail.com

    • Tom Shearer says:

      Very Cool !!! … Jason – love what you have to say … great insight and great attitude … just to think you were only 23 and the rest were in their mid to late 30’s and had all that 70-‘s success and like you said to replace PC on the tenor vocals … just an amazing job … Thanks for All … Happy Birthday to Danny and Hi to Bill !!!

  11. Deborah beck says:

    What a beautiful testimonial to Danny, Bill, all of Chicago and yourself! I’ve been a fan since 1968 and seen Chicago in concert over 100 times. With each new member a little change came – sometimes good, sometimes, well, not so great. But I’ve stuck with them and you all these years because the music was original, memorable, addicting! Color My World was my wedding song oh so many years ago! Have to say that I miss you , Bill and Danny so much but as they say time marches on. I love the idea of a reunion tour if that could be brought to fruition. In the meantime keep making great music because you have a lot of fans out here! Thank you got all your years with Chicago and for many more with your new group you are putting together! Hope to see you in Colorado Springs one day.

  12. Karen says:

    What’s so sweet is that it’s so obvious you’re still a FAN! As the years have gone by, I made it to fewer and fewer shows, for a variety of reasons, but you were always lovely. That photo has 3 of my favorite Chicago members, and it is a joy to see. Love to you all, and many more Happy Birthdays to Danny – and everyone!

  13. Doug Grooms says:

    I was 12 years old in 1984 when I discovered Chicago via the 17 album. Shortly after that, I heard that their lead vocalist had left the group, and a new, younger guy was gonna be taking over. I was too young to know or understand why this was such big news, I just kept listening to 17 until 18 came out. And by then, I was a little older, and a little more capable of really feeling and understanding the music and lyrics. I learned every song on 18, every member of the band, and then started working my backwards through the entire catalog. But 18 was deal-sealer for me. Then when I thought 18 couldn’t be topped…19 came out. You and Bill Champlin were, and still are, two of my favorite vocalists of all time. On more than a few thousand occasions, I have fantasized about a band of you, Champlin, Danny, and Bailey. And honestly, I’d be WAY more stoked to see THAT band than I would be to see the current Chicago lineup. Nothing against the current lineup, but for me, it’s now lacking some very important personnel. I finally got to meet you in March 2012 in Nashville during Tin Pan South when you shared the stage with Jonathan Cain (another huge musical influence for me), Gary Morris, and Miles Schon. I was thrilled to meet you as a person, and thrilled to meet the superstar who wrote and sang the soundtrack to my high school years. The guy I listened to when I liked a girl and she liked me, when I liked a girl and she DIDN’T like me, when we got together, when we broke up, and all points in between. So thanks to you, Danny, Bill, and all the guys in Chicago. Still to this day, when I hear a track from 18 or 19, I get a smile on my face. Those albums meant a lot to me back then, and in some ways, they mean even more to me now.

  14. Greg says:

    Robert once asked me to “explain it.,” when he learned that my wife and I had seen the band hundreds of times. As I began to speak, I said something like, “I know you don’t get it,” and he interrupted me and said,”I really don’t, can you explain it to me?” I proceeded to TRY to relate very similar things which YOU scribed so eloquently here. I remember saying, like Walter used to and Jimmy still does say, “It’s all about the music and the feelings and memories it brings every time I hear it.” There isn’t a concert I attend when this old Chicago fan doesn’t get teary-eyed, usually during DARKWTII, for whatever reason. Jason, you need to write a book! You are such a gentle soul, a kind person, AND you write so beautifully, I think it would be a snap for you, in fact, you probably can collect and edit much of what you have already written and make your masterpiece a series of vignettes. Here are a couple of “working title” suggestions: “My Time In Chicago” or “I Replaced Peter Cetera” (or, “Replacing PC”). WE MISS YOU JASON!

  15. Patricia Kucik says:

    Dear Jason.
    Thank You for sharing your amazing experience! You are an artist of music and also literacy.
    I had the honor of singing with you and the band 3 times.
    It was your music that got me through my widowhood in my late 20’s. I’ve probably been to close to 50 concerts.
    I am so excited you’ll be performing again soon.
    Danny looks great, would never guess he’s 70.
    Thanks to all 3 of you for sharing you’re talents!

  16. Jamie Bruhn says:

    Jason – it’s been great following your career and eventually meeting you and the guys. Champlin has especially been a influence in the music I make. I’m a bass player and singer as well. So you guys are still the best influences!!! Looking forward to continuing to follow you.

  17. Lori R. says:

    Jason, I started seeing Chicago at Pine Knob in Detroit when I was 14 years old. (45 years ago) The music was so much a part of my youth through adulthood! I would bring my husband when we first started dating and he fell in love with the group too! Had a few kids and guess what? They are huge fans of you, Bill and Danny! As a family we have enjoyed many of your concerts and you have given us so many great memories! To this day we still watch old concerts on blue ray and wonder and hope that the three of you would make some music together! We always felt that yours and Bills era was the best era! Thank you for all the great times and great music! Best always!

  18. Mel Gonzalez says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Danny!! And thank you Jason for sharing some special memories with all of us. A lot of us were there from day one when you stepped in to this gig with Chicago and heard the first single ” will you still love me”, from the Chicago 18 record, and I think from that moment on we all knew Chicago was in good hands and everything would wrk out ok. It’s good that everybody can get together once in a while to hang out and catch up. And birthdays are perfect for that. Good that you could celebrate Danny’s day with him. I’m sure it meant the world him to have you and Bill there. And it’s good to hear the door is open to any possibility of working together again. All us Chicago fans would relish the thought. Seems like old times….

  19. Dave Leyland says:

    Thank you so much Jason. You are and always will be one of the best voices of my favorite band.
    And sincere warm wishes for Danny on his 70th. You guys are still changing our world for the better.
    I love Mr. Champlin too.

  20. John says:

    It is so difficult to completely sum up what the music meant. But I’ll say magic. I remember as a kid on holidays sitting in front of a tv at our holiday house watching Chicago sing If You Leave Me Now. I fell in love with th band then. Fast forward to 1986 and Jason, your arrival. How can Peter Cetera becrepkaced ??? He could With by you. The incredible songs written and sung by the band Have put their own stamp on the bands history. I hope you do play and record with the ex meme bees again, along with Dawayne Bailey. It would be magic all over again. Peace ❤️

  21. Richard James says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story Jason !! I can remember the first time I heard “Hard Habit to Break” and got hooked into Chicago for good. Chicago 17 is my favorite album of all time. Saw you several times and thought you were fantastic. Yes all those songs take us back to happier times. Bill’s voice was always incredible. “Look Away” still one of my favorites. Just hope one day before its all over all the former members can rejoin for a tour !!

  22. Terri Bey says:

    Thanks for sharing. It had to be wonderful to hang out with him and his friends for his 70th. Happy 70th to Danny.

  23. Judy says:

    Absolutely amazing collaboration of pure talent. Love all 3 of you guys. You may be former members of the band, but you are definitely 3 of my favorites along with Jimmy of course. Happy Birthday Danny Seraphine!!! And Jason, your voice always gives me goosebumps.

  24. Todd Mitchell says:

    Jason, for 10 years I’ve been wanting to see you reconnect with Bill. The two of you and Danny are what made Chicago for me. I had to wait 28 years to finally see you and Danny play together in person at the HOF. Two years prior I finally saw Danny play, with Bill. Now I’m dreaming that I can see all 3 of you together playing the Chicago 18 and 19 hits. I hope it comes true. I’d be there in a heartbeat.

  25. Moe Maloney says:

    This photo truly warmed my heart. As you know, I’ve known the guys almost my entire life. Danny wrote “Take Me Back to Chicago “ when my Freddie died. I am blessed to still have Peter and Danny in my life. Just saw Danny and Bill a few weeks ago. Would kill to see you with them again. Maybe next time. Life goes on, but real friendships last forever.

  26. Mark R says:

    Jason, you are a great story-teller. I’m always hanging on your words when it comes to your blogs/vlogs/interviews. You are very introspective and have a way of expressing the sentiments of being in the moment and purposefulness that I wonder if there’s a calling for motivational speaking that you haven’t quite tapped. I hope you at least find songs for those thoughts in lyrical form with your next project. Stay well and positive. All the best!

  27. Greg O. says:

    HI Jason. I stumbled upon this post on a Chicago fan page on Facebook so I clicked on this link which took me to your website and this post. I wanted to share a moment that I remember so vividly like it was yesterday. When you guys were recording the additional songs Chicago 25 (the live album) at Mervyn Warren’s place… I came over when you were doing Jimmy and my tune Everlasting Love. You were so kind and gracious and you said, “You have really been kicking ass and knocking it out of the park with these songs.” (something to that affect). I responded, a little nervous and not knowing what really to say, “Chicago is my favorite band.” You smiled with that “I know and I understand” kind of look. It was a really cool little moment. It is the small moments that sometimes can really catch use by surprise and remind us that we are all connected by the love of music. Despite all the craziness in this industry, those moments are what matter to me and what I hold on to. I have enjoyed and appreciated all of your contributions to my songs, even though it is such a small part of your huge career. Rock on Jason.

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