Though he was born in Brooklyn, Robert Lamm is a Chicago original. The singer/keyboardist/guitarist is not only one of the more recognizable voices in Chicago's sterling jazz-rock ensemble, but he's both one of their founders and still performing with the group to this day. Milestones like that are worth celebrating - so here's a look back at some of Lamm's best work with the band!
“Questions 67 and 68” (1969): Released as the band’s first single, the song was inspired by a girl Lamm knew at the time, and in an interview for the book Blue Desert: The World of West Coast Music, Lamm described it as having “a hint of acid imagery” and said that it was “very Beatles influenced.” Upon its initial release, the track stalled on the charts, but when it was reissued in 1971 following the band’s success with other singles, it rose to No. 24.
“Beginnings” (1969): Inspired by Lamm’s attendance of a Richie Havens concert in Los Angeles, this proved to be another instance of Chicago finding success the second time around. While the track didn’t chart at all when it was first released as a single, after getting a reissue in 1971, it hit No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 and topped the Easy Listening chart.
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” (1970): The band’s third consecutive Top 10 single, the track made it to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was an even bigger hit in Canada, climbing all the way to No. 2. "[It's] not a complicated song, but it’s certainly a quirky song,” admitted Lamm in an interview with the Songwriters Hall of Fame. “But that was my intent. I wanted to write something that wasn’t ordinary, that wasn’t blues-based, that didn’t have ice cream changes, and would allow the horns to shine and give Lee Loughnane a solo. So all that was the intent."
“Saturday in the Park” (1972): In an interview with Billboard, Lamm detailed the origins of the song. “It was written as I was looking at footage from a film I shot in Central Park, over a couple of years, back in the early ‘70s,” said Lamm. “I shot this film and somewhere down the line I edited it into some kind of a narrative, and as I watched the film I jotted down some ideas based on what I was seeing and had experienced. And it was really kind of that peace and love thing that happened in Central Park and in many parks all over the world, perhaps on a Saturday, where people just relax and enjoy each other’s presence, and the activities we observe and the feelings we get from feeling a part of a day like that.”
“Harry Truman” (1975): Written by Lamm in the wake of Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, the song was indeed about Truman, selected by Lamm as a tribute to a former president that the American people could actually trust. Although it was a Top 20 hit, climbing to No. 13 on the Hot 100, it’s all but forgotten when it comes to Chicago’s best-of compilations, so if you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and give it a spin.
“Take Me Back to Chicago” (1978): While this track wasn’t written by Lamm – it was actually penned by Danny Seraphine and David Wolinski – it did feature him on lead vocals, and it’s worthy of mention both because it was a minor hit for the band and because it features backing vocals by Chaka Khan.
“Thunder and Lightning” (1980): Co-written by Lamm and Seraphine, with Peter Cetera and Lamm sharing lead vocal duties, this track from Chicago XIV was only a minor hit single, reaching a chart high of No. 56. That said, it was still the album’s biggest hit, since the follow-up single, “Song for You,” didn’t manage to chart at all.
“The Only One” (1997): We’re at a loss to explain why this song wasn’t a massive hit, and once you’ve heard it, you’ll probably wonder the same thing, since it was produced by – and features musical and vocal contributions from – Lenny Kravitz. Alas, it only appears on the band’s 1997 best-of compilation, The Heart of Chicago 1967-1997, but at least it’s out there.
“Feel” (2006): Produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts, this was the lead track from the band’s thirtieth album – go ahead and try and guess what it was called – and it was a solid hit for the band, taking them to No. 19 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
“My Favorite Things” (2011): Although it appears on the band’s second Christmas album, Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three, you’ll likely know it from its place of origin: the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. While the album itself failed to chart, the song climbed to No. 9 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, giving Chicago their first Top 10 AC hit in 14 years.