Thursday, July 31, 2014

Graham Nash: Chicago

For this week’s “Thirty Something Thursday” feature, I was looking for a song that charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 from 30 to 39 and stumbled onto Graham Nash’s single from 1971. Interestingly enough, last week as I was traveling back from vacation I was singing this tune. Having not heard the song for years, I don’t know inspired me to remember it, but I’m glad I did.

Nonetheless, this single from Nash’s “Songs for Beginners” album met the criteria as it charted at #35. “Chicago” has all sorts of references to the tumultuous times in the Windy City during the late sixties. It references the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the riot incited by the Chicago Eight and their subsequent arrest and trial.

One of the defendants, Bobby Seale, was bound and gagged in the courtroom during the trial because of his frequent outbursts. His experience inspired the opening line, “So your brother’s bound and gagged and they chained him to a chair.” Nash wanted to play a benefit in behalf of the Chicago 8’s defense fund and in the lyrics, he pleads with his Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young bandmates to “please come to Chicago just to sing.”

Although CSN regularly perform the tune in concert, Nash is the only member of CSNY to appear on the studio recording of “Chicago.” Besides providing vocals, he plays guitar, organ, piano, and tambourine. Rita Coolidge, Venetta Fields, Clydie King, and Dorothy Morrison sang the backup lines, “We can change the world.”

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