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Chicago Transit Authority Biography

Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Years Active: 1967-present
Genres: Rock, Jazz Fusion, Progressive Rock, Soft Rock

Chicago is an American rock band formed in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois. The band began as a politically charged, sometimes experimental, rock band and later moved to a predominantly softer sound, becoming famous for producing a number of hit ballads. They had a steady stream of hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Second only to The Beach Boys in terms of Billboard singles and albums chart success among American bands, Chicago is one of the longest running and most successful pop/rock and roll groups.

Their first record (released in April 1969), the eponymous “The Chicago Transit Authority” featured jazzy instrumentals, extended jams featuring Latin percussion, and experimental, feedback-laden guitar abstraction. It sold over one million copies by 1970, and was awarded a platinum disc. The album began to receive heavy airplay on the newly popular FM radio band; it included a number of pop-rock songs — "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?", "Beginnings", and "Questions 67 and 68" — which would later be edited to a radio-friendly length, released as singles, and eventually become rock radio staples. Soon after the album's release, the band's name was shortened to Chicago, when the actual Chicago Transit Authority threatened legal action.

The band's popularity increased with the release of their second album, another double-LP set, which included several top-40 hits. This second album, titled “Chicago” (also known as “Chicago II”), was the group's breakthrough album. The centerpiece track was a thirteen-minute suite composed by James Pankow called "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" (the structure of this suite was inspired by Pankow's love for classical music). The suite yielded two top ten hits, the crescendo-filled "Make Me Smile" (#9 U.S) and prom-ready ballad "Colour My World", both sung by Terry Kath. Among the other popular tracks on the album are: Robert Lamm's dynamic but cryptic "25 or 6 to 4"— Chicago's first Top 5 hit — and the lengthy war protest song "It Better End Soon."

The group returned in 1972 with their first single-disc release, “Chicago V,” a diverse set that reached number one on both the Billboard pop and jazz albums charts and yielded the Robert Lamm-composed-and-sung radio hit and perennial fan favorite "Saturday in the Park", which mixed everyday life and political yearning in a more subtle way. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1972.

Other successful albums and singles followed in each of the succeeding years. 1973's “Chicago VI” topped the charts buoyed by the hits "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" (#10 U.S.) and "Just You 'N' Me" (#4 U.S.) and it was also the first of several albums to include Brazilian jazz percussionist Laudir de Oliveira.

“Chicago VII,” the band's double-disc 1974 release, featured the Cetera-composed "Wishing You Were Here", (#11 U.S.) sung by Terry Kath and Cetera with background vocals by Cetera and The Beach Boys and some fusion jazz. “Chicago VII” also provided one of the group's enduring signature tunes, the anthemic "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long.” "Happy Man," another song from

“Chicago VII,” was also a popular favorite on FM radio.

Their 1975 release, “Chicago VIII,” featured the political allegory "Harry Truman" and the nostalgic Pankow-composed "Old Days". Both hits reached the Top 15, with the latter even reaching the Top Five.

But for all their effort, none of their singles went to number one until “Chicago X” in 1976, when Cetera's ballad "If You Leave Me Now" climbed to the top of the charts and remained there for two weeks. The song also won Chicago their only Grammy award, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 1977. The group's 1977 release, “Chicago XI,” was another big success for the band; it included Cetera's hit ballad "Baby, What a Big Surprise", a #4 U.S. hit which became one of the group's last big hits of the decade.

The second major phase of the band's career took off in late 1981 with a new producer (David Foster), a new label (Warner Brothers), and the addition of keyboardist/guitarist/singer Bill Champlin and guitarist Chris Pinnick .

Foster brought in studio musicians for some of the tracks on “Chicago 16” and Chicago once again topped the charts with the single "Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away". This was followed up by a song that barely missed the top 20, "Love Me Tomorrow". The following album, “Chicago 17,” became the biggest selling album of the band's history, producing two more Top Ten singles ("You're the Inspiration" and "Hard Habit to Break") (both #3 hits) and two other singles ("Stay the Night" (#16) and "Along Comes a Woman" (#14).

“Chicago 18” was successful as the previous two, but still produced the #3 single "Will You Still Love Me?", a Top 5 Adult Contemporary and Top 20 Pop song ("If She Would Have Been Faithful..."). In 1988, the band topped the charts again with the single "Look Away", from the album “Chicago 19.” The album also yielded two more Top 10 hits, both with Bill Champlin singing solo lead for the first time and another Top 5 single that would officially be a release from the forthcoming greatest hits record. “Chicago 19” was followed in short order by “Greatest Hits 1982-1989”, which included the aforementioned #5 hit "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?", a slightly remixed tune originally included on 19 and sung by Jason Scheff. The album's other Top Ten hit, "You're Not Alone", reached #10 in early 1989. During 1989, Chicago did a reprise joint concert tour with The Beach Boys (and would do so once again in 1997).

The group released “Chicago XXX,” on March 21, 2006, their first all-new studio album since “Twenty 1.” “Chicago XXX” did manage to debut at No. 41 on the US album chart. June 17, 2008 saw the official release of the “Stone of Sisyphus” album by Rhino Records, recorded in 1993 and originally slated for a March 1994 release until being shelved by Warner Records. The album contains eleven of the original twelve tracks (the raucous "Get on This" was left off), plus four demo recordings. Its official title is "Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus" (it was originally slated to be album #22).

According to Billboard, Chicago was the leading U.S. singles charting group during the 1970s. They have sold over 38 million units in the U.S., with 22 gold, 18 platinum, and 8 multi-platinum albums. Over the course of their career they have charted five No. 1 albums, and have had 21 top ten hits.