I was born in 1962. Who knew that in a few short years the world was going to change, radically. I don’t know what it was like to have lived in the 50s, or the 40s, only hear the stories, and see the effects of the changes that happened during my decade, the 60s.
I grew up in San Diego, in a broken home and now I know why. As a kid, it’s hard to make sense. You’re comparing yourself to all the other kids and as they have families intact, the 2 parents were attending all the events… school plays, little league, all that stuff, and I didn’t have mine there you try and fill in the blanks.
I’ve had great deep talks with both my parents, understand exactly what happened… the sequence of events and I have thanked them both, and do here again publicly, deeply, for bringing me into this world… for this life… which I’m able to type words to share with any of you who are going to read it, now.
I love the quote… “Whenever I hear someone say life is hard I’m tempted to ask them *Compared to what?*”
That doesn’t discount the fact that life has its challenges… but, now being a little more than halfway through my 50s I think about this stuff more and more and find the gratitude in it all. I think about things like when I’m at the end of my life, (and who knows when that is anyway? No guarantees on anything), that I don’t want to look back and think, “You had WHAT? And you did WHAT with it?”. The great Les Brown has a great way of putting it… he says he doesn’t want to get to the end of his life, on his deathbed, with all his gifts circling the bed furious at him because he hadn’t used them. Wow, very powerful.
And I have to say, my latest inspiration and motivation to put my own band together and do some limited public performances has been a combination of a couple things… mainly, the outpouring of the people, you, who have shared your stories with me. Have shared what all of this music, performances, friendships have meant to you throughout 4 decades. The 80s, the 90s, 2000s and 2010s. When you’re in the middle of it it can be a blur… having had a few years to slow down and take it all in, what a wonderful life. And I’m not talking about the personal benefit I’ve had in all this… I’m talking about how all of you have shared what it’s meant to YOU. The memories… the first dates, the weddings, the children you now have, and actually grandchildren.
I remember the first time I saw some people at one of our concerts holding up a sign that said, “We got married to “Will You Still Love Me”!” and then I’d see those people years later with their children. What a powerful thing… so hearing the stories…
Then, all the charity work I do now… to go perform 3 or 4 songs and watch a room full of people become moved to donate to the charity… to know a child is going to have their parents able to go through treatments for their illness and not have to be away from them… all from just wiggling my fingers and letting my vocal chords produce some sounds?
I get it… it’s my calling… it’s my responsibility in this life to share my gifts…
And that’s what brings me to the title of this post… as I sit here typing in the wee morning hours as I have this window of time to myself… just me, the stillness and God, whatever that means to anybody individually… I reflect on a few things about when and how I grew up.
When I was about 10 years old I was really starting to love music. My mother turned me on to the first stuff I listened to a lot. She had 8 track tapes of Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Carpenters and Bread. We played that stuff a LOT! And as many of you know, Elton was the stuff that lit me up. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Such incredible playing… singing… writing… it was for me!
Right at that time I bought my first record, (which meant my Grandmother loaned me the money… which meant she gave me the money since I didn’t pay her back!). That 45 single was “Rocket Man” which to this day is a song I perform live and love to death!
I started playing music with my brother Darin around that time, 10, 11 years old or so… and my mother had a band. I ended up joining her band when I was 14 so this in 1976. Now think of that time… the music that was out! Unbelievable. The 70s were one of the richest periods of music creation. The radio was full of diversity. NOBODY sounded alike… you wouldn’t have been able to make it if you were copying people. Well, you might for a single or two but it wouldn’t last. For the most part, artists were different and boy was it a time to come up learning and playing music.
I joined a band at 16 years old called “The People Movers” in San Diego. It was what they called “The cream gig in San Diego”. The bandleader, John Auzin, had a knack of securing the best players in town because it was the steadiest gig, which meant it kept going. As a musician you always looked for something that was going to last.
I replaced an iconic bass player in “The People Movers”, Nathan East. In fact, as I auditioned for the band John asked me is I sang and I told him not really. He told me I had to sing because Nathan sang, so I tried… and he must have heard something in me because he gave me the chance…
Now I’m going to get to my point of this writing and tell you that when I got that gig for the entire 2 years I was on it there was a part of me that felt, “You missed the good years. You’re the afterthought”. I mean, that band had what was considered as great as it gets with Nathan, Moqui Graham, Dave Fleweling and John Rekevics… this was THE band! I went in to hear them a few times before Nathan moved on to LA to become one of the biggest bass player superstars in the world playing on countless hit records and superstars such as Clapton, Phil Collins, co-writing and playing on hits like “Easy Lover” with Phil and Philip Bailey.
So I’m playing in this band and in the back of my mind thinking, “There’s no way you’re doing anything on that level. You’re the cleanup crew”… and I didn’t mind.
Funny thing is when I listen now back on the recordings of us in “The People Movers” in 1979 and 1980 I accept what others have told me including John Auzin. Our version of the band while not to compete with what was before us, held our own. We became more of a true vocal force having 2 VERY strong lead vocalists, Pat Hawk and Larry Moore, and I rounded it out as this kid who was just starting to find his voice… but, one thing I was always comfortable with was singing background vocal parts… our 3 part vocals were VERY powerful… not to mention the groove of the band was pretty deep! Larry playing Fender Rhodes and an ARP Odyssey synth, Duncan Moore playing drums, John Auzin playing piano, Rhodes and his ARP Quadra synth. We had sax players along the way like John Howard and some others…
But looking back now… remembering how I thought I’d missed the boat… wasn’t born early enough… have you ever felt like that? The timing just wasn’t right?
So on I go, to LA after my 2 years in “The People Movers” and it’s now 1980. Gone are the 70s… the music landscape was really changing in the early 80s. There was this revolt from what had come before… and actually it was disco music that spawned the biggest revolt… which was punk music. Punk was a genre that it didn’t matter if you could play or not! In fact it was a badge of honor if you couldn’t! And I tried to fit in… played in a few bands where we’d “Showcase” at clubs like Madame Wong’s. I remember how silly I felt trying to get my hair to do things I wasn’t comfortable with, but that’s what we were doing… and you know why? We were trying to *make it*, whatever that meant… we were in LA and trying to climb the ladder.
You’d make friends and then all of a sudden they’d pop through! They’d get a publishing deal to write songs, some of them would be artists and get record deals and some would have hits, become stars… it was just something everybody was doing.
But still, there was a part of me that felt like I was just born a little too late… wasn’t around for that fertile period of the 70s… all the people we looked up to… Elton, during the 70s… experimental… “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Diversity… experimental… but now, it was gone. We were into the 80s.
Now the 80s were producing some amazing things… there were some great things that were coming out of the 80s but it was a very trendy period. In my humble opinion, that decade started the funneling of sounds into a more homogenized end result. There were bands sounding very similar with a typical vocal sound with a kind of *crying* to the vocal delivery… almost having a British accent… and again, the people I was working with to try and write hits, get deals, etc. this was the stuff we were chasing after.
But there was one band who made a comeback that was one of the most incredible reinventions I’d ever heard. Chicago. First of all, I was, and still am, a huge fan of anything David Foster does. That, combined with Bill Champlin… forget about it. I devoured Bill’s albums “Single” and “Runaway”. (thanks Archie Thompson!) So when I heard Chicago 16 I was mindblown.
Yes, I was, and still am, a big Chicago fan as well… I’ve written about it before but my oldest brother Todd won Chicago 6 on the radio when we were kids and I became an instant fan of the band and Peter Cetera. To this day one of my favorite songs is “Just You And Me”. Whenever people would ask me what’s my favorite Chicago song to perform it’s “Just You And Me”.
So again, you have this incredible period of music, the 70s, producing this incredibly diverse music and I was the generation that was consuming it. These songs are the soundtrack of me growing up. I remember my girlfriend at the time, (is there such a thing in 4th grade?), Carrie Noe, came to school one day and said, “I LOVE this song! You have to hear it!” and she had a little record player with her and put “Color My World” on.
The other funny story I have about seeds being planted of my destiny was when I was in junior high school, I believe I was 13 years old, I took my electric guitar to school as did a couple of my other friends… and I walked out after school to the front where there was a payphone… I was standing at the payphone and this girl walks up to me and says, (while grabbing the guitar out of my hands), “I know how to play guitar!” and proceeds to start playing the riff of “25 or 6 to 4”.
Getting back to LA in the 80s… I remember driving over Laurel Canyon coming from the westside heading back to the Valley and just as I was starting down Laurel Canyon Blvd having passed Mulholland… it happened. “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” came on the radio! Heard it for the first time on the radio and it literally jumped out of the speakers. Literally, revolutionary. The sound… the band making its comeback.
Now I should also mention that my great friend Tom Keane was super tight with Foster and Tom would call me randomly and ask, “You wanna go down to Davlin? Foster’s producing “The Tubes”. And of course I was jumping at the chance! Tom and I went down to Davlin studios and there was David Foster working on guitar parts for “Wild Women Of Wongo”. David knew me as Tom’s little buddy… he know my father so was always cordial… but this is what I was experiencing…
Then, shortly after that experience Tom called and asked, “Wanna go down to Davlin? Foster’s producing Chicago.” and what do you think my answer was?
So there we were, Danny was out at the drum kit cutting the drums for “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”. And I was just Tom’s little buddy… the fly on the wall… I’ll never forget seeing Robert Lamm walk in wearing a designer sweatsuit. As always, super classy and elegant. I don’t even believe we were introduced. I was just this kid standing off to the side taking it all in. I also remember Marvin Gaye’s hit “Sexual Healing” was a big record at the time and hearing Foster say, “Marvin’s back, and in a BIG way!”
As I write this… it’s amazing to remember these things… and again, I’m just on the outside looking into this incredible period of music history.
Getting back to being on Laurel Canyon in my tan Toyota Celica hatchback that I’d stuff my Ampeg SVT in that barely allowed the hatchback door to close! I heard “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” on the radio that first time and my mind was blown. Masterpiece… on every level. The song, the vocal, the MIX! Jumping out of the speakers… and let’s be honest… that song, that team REVOLUTIONIZED pop music, again, as Chicago did in the 70s. Funny thing is that for the purists that great up on Chicago in the 70s hated this new sound, BUT, there were a lot of people that became fans for the first time on this new era. I was both…
Chicago goes on to carve out a string of hits as big as anything they’d done over the years including their 2nd #1 single ever. “If You Leave Me Now” and now “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”. Include a couple of other singles to hit the top 5 and they’re adding to the legacy of the band with some of their biggest hit singles. As Foster said, “They’re back, and in a BIG way.”
Then, all of a sudden, as if the universe had conspired and God’s hand intervened, a big change was made. Their lead vocalist moves on, at the peak of this successful run. Imagine this… “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”, “Hard Habit To Break” and “You’re The Inspiration” are dominating pop radio. And not only dominating pop radio but influencing an entire generation on songwriting, production. All the way across the board from pop music, R&B, you name it… Foster’s signature classical approach to musical figures, intros, etc. were being copied… and I don’t blame anybody for doing so! This was the sound… not to mention the approach to vocals… the big vocal harmony stack…
With all of this activity… Chicago loses its lead vocalist at the peak of this 2nd run. Now what? How on earth is this going to continue…
Well, they found this kid who was just coming into his own. I was 23 years old… wasn’t really looking at myself as a lead vocalist who would front ANY band let alone a group like Chicago and let’s be honest… who would have the courage, the bravado to take something like that on? But, they came a knockin because they’d heard my demo tapes.
You see I’d signed one of those publishing deals like my friends were and one of the main reasons was so that someone would *talk* about me. I didn’t want to talk about me… most musicians don’t… well, at least they don’t want to SELL themselves… talking about ourselves? Actually, one of our favorite subjects! haaaaaaaa. But I’m talking about SELLING ourselves… very difficult. So I signed my deal so someone would talk about me… and they did…
I’ve covered this before but for those of you that don’t know the story, Michael Ostin of Warner Bros. Records called my publisher looking for songs and/or a songwriter to possibly co-write for Peter Cetera’s solo album. Now look at the irony of this situation… Just a couple years earlier, I’m the fly on the wall at Davlin Studios watching Danny Seraphine cutting the drums to “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”… and suddenly my publisher answers a request from Michael Ostin to send my first 3 songs in my catalogue over. I had just signed this deal a couple months earlier so I only had 3 songs in my catalogue at the time. And to make the scenario clear, when Peter Cetera made his solo record after departing the band Warner Bros. had Chicago so they had the first right of having Cetera… you think they’re going to keep him? The voice of the band? Of course… so they have 2 things they need to cover. Chicago is trying to get in to capitalize on the success of Chicago 16 and 17 with those hits plastered all over the radio… Cetera is going to start his album.
And as the story goes, Michael hears my demo, calls Lenny Waronker upstairs and says, “You gotta come down and hear this… I think we may have found the guy FOR Chicago”.
And so it started… CLICK HERE for the complete rundown on how this all happened.
This is where the title of this post and the philosophy of it all ties in together…
When I was asked to join the band I have to state publicly that going in to make that record, Chicago 18, these guys welcomed me with open arms. Imagine the potential of things not working out… I mean let’s face it… If I were the record company my hope would be that Cetera goes off and does his solo album, Chicago makes their 18th album, they both don’t do that well and everybody realizes what they had… comes back together and goes in to capitalize on what they’d built on Chicago 19.
But, something strange happened on the way to the office… we both won. Cetera comes out swinging with his first release post Chicago. “Glory Of Love”, Number 1 single! I’ll never forget when Foster got a copy of the mix for “Glory Of Love”, which he co-wrote with Cetera… apparently they were going to cut it for Chicago 18 before the change?
He put the tape in at the studio and we were all sitting around… once the song ended, I think it was Foster who said, “Uh-oh!” meaning we needed to get a single ready, QUICK! haaaaaaaaaaaa. What an incredible time!
We actually came with a re-make of “25 or 6 to 4” which wasn’t very warmly accepted by the radio programmers, (who were all the age of the bandmembers and had grown up on the original version. And we jumped to release our 2nd single, “Will You Still Love Me”.
And then, the magic happened… Cetera had his single climbing the charts and then so did we.
“Will You Still Love Me” didn’t quite make it to #1, it went to #3. But, it became one of Chicago’s biggest hit singles… suddenly, the war was won… for me personally… internally… the war, an internal one, was the battle of whether “you’re good enough”. There I was, with my voice on the radio jumping out to a new legion of fans saying the same thing I was saying when I heard “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” for the first time.
Again, going back to the stories I hear now, today, of people who came up on that music… specifically Chicago 18… which brings me to my ultimate message of this post…
After “Will You Still Love Me” we released another single “If She Would’ve Been Faithful” that went to #17 pop. That song was/is incredible. I remember Foster saying this was going to be a big hit… and everybody else for that matter… and I’m never one to make excuses, BUT, I believe that song ran up against a problem that everybody would love to have… and that was at the time, when that single came out, radio had in heavy rotation these songs… pop radio… “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”, “Hard Habit To Break”, “You’re The Inspiration”, “Will You Still Love Me”, “Glory Of Love” and “Next Time I Fall”. 6 songs that were, in essence, Chicago music. Randy Goodrum, one of the co-writers of “If She Would Have Been Faithful” is a great friend of mine and we’ve written a ton of songs together, told me that song not doing better is one of his true regrets. Foster was telling him how big that record was going to be… but I digress… here… back to the point.
We go on to cut Chicago 19 and bam… more of the biggest hit singles in the band’s career. The band’s 3rd #1 hit, “Look Away” and another #3 single “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love”. Another song “You’re Not Alone” peaked at #10… another of the band’s biggest hits.
One of my biggest disappointments was that I had a song on Chicago 19 that everybody thought was going to be a big hit… but then after “You’re Not Alone” was released the record company decided that was it for Chicago 19 as far as singles. I was heartbroken, but understood… hey, these guys knew what they were doing and we were very successful with their decisions.
But I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t believe this song isn’t going to be a single.” The thought of the timing just not being right… I remember how they were really trying to decide whether the 3rd single from Chicago 19 should be “You’re Not Alone” or my song… but, that’s the way it happened.
And then, all of a sudden some incredible news comes… it was time to put another greatest hits package together with the 80s hits. Chicago’s Greatest Hits, 82-89. AND, they were going to put my song on it AS the single for the album! What? Again, this kid who was the fly on the wall… just 7-8 years earlier is on the 3rd Greatest Hits packages for Chicago?
“What Kind Of Man Would I Be” gets released and goes to #5 pop! Wow… so there’s this album that comes out and sells 5 million copies pretty quickly with titles such as “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”, “Hard Habit To Break”, “You’re The Inspiration”, “Will You Still Love Me”, “If She Would’ve Been Faithful”, “Look Away”, “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love”, “We Can Last Forever” (yes, another one of my co-written songs), “What Kind Of Man Would I Be”.
There it is, in the history books… lots of radio play, television, touring, incredible milestones…
And you know what? There’s still a slight feeling of showing up a little late to the party… there’s a part of me that feels that I came in after the real glory days… just like replacing Nathan East… yes, I know it’s amazing and has its place but it’s not the original… and going through what any normal young person would think of… and for the first time being scrutinized on the world stage… “Is he trying to sound like Peter? Is he a clone?” Truthfully… I always saw myself as just a top 40 musician… a “People Mover” and when I hear those old tapes, when we’d do a Boz Scaggs song, I’d try and honor the song and sound and kind of lean into a Boz vocal approach… I wasn’t the guy started for people to notice my artistry… I loved, and love, great songs and especially that era of music… 70s and into the 80s… when we’d be playing a Michael Jackson song I’d lean into that sound… so when I joined Chicago, I’m just doing what I always did as a top 40 musician.
And now I’m going to really sum this all up… having had a good 3 years to reflect on it all now… as I’ve outlined… history has been made and recorded… and if it’s all just about looking at numbers, stats, etc. that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m now hearing from all of you that are sharing your stories on what these songs and these experiences mean to you, and it’s showing me the true purpose of it all… it’s not about me… I’m just delivering a feeling, a message… and I GET it. When people tell me events in their lives that this music touches… how it’s healed… I get it… Elton’s music has done that for me. And the thoughts of not having Elton’s music is not even something I ever want to entertain… and I’ve performed this beautiful body of work throughout 4 decades. People associate my voice with some of this music and I know how powerful that is.
When I do limited dates these days people come up to me and say things like, “I saw you in 93 at…” and I can see on their faces what it means to them.
Here’s what I now know… deeply. I was born at the perfect time. I got to experience one of the greatest periods of music mainly as a kid forming my brain as a songwriter and an artist on what I believe will be looked at as one of the most prolific periods of music. And I got to contribute to that at a very young age… again, I got to experience things like “The Jackson 5” AS IT HAPPENED! Singles going to the radio… AS THEY HAPPENED! I’m not just hearing about it being talked about by my elders… I was there for it. Led Zeppelin, the same thing. AS IT HAPPENED!
And then it was my turn… the impossible… the odds of it working out with me joining a band like Chicago and it WORKING? Next to impossible… but it worked… I chalk all that up to things way beyond my doing and controlling… yes, I have the ability… I showed up and delivered… but something was, and is, watching over me, and all of us, I believe… to make sure destiny unfolds, as it should.
I’m 56 years old as I write this… I have a lot left in the tank… I’ve had 3 incredible years to stop and reflect on this incredible gift called life. Another incredible gift from my beautiful family of Chicago to allow me to come home when it matters most… the passing of family members… when I stop to think about it… I don’t know many people who have been as fortunate as I am and I don’t take it for granted.
My generation is amazing. Those of us in our 50s… I know I was born at the perfect time. I am one of the links… the conduits to all the stuff the younger generations dream about… they weren’t here to experience it… they only get to hear the stories… but I went through it. Sonny and Cher, Tom Jones, The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, Led Zeppelin, Chicago… and the list goes on.
I am so pumped to take all of that history, and my own history, into the next chapters… like I said, there’s a lot left in the tank and I’m listening to the needs of the people. I’m here for you!
I love you all,