As I've mentioned in previous columns, I am an unabashed lover of music, and I watch as many specials about bands, and singers, as I can find. This past year, while locked in isolation due to Covid-19, I've had a looooooot of time on my hands. One day, just for something to do to fill the time, I did a search of bands/singers who were either, born in, or lived most of, their lives in Illinois.
Who knew how much big name musical talent is from Illinois. I knew a few of them, of course, but I was surprised at the depth of talent from the Land of Lincoln. The list is way too long to name every single one, and frankly some in genres I don't follow I have never heard of the bands, but the list is still long.
You would figure that blues, soul, and jazz would be a big part of this list, and you would be correct. Buddy Guy, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, The Staple Singers, Jennifer Hudson, Minnie Riperton, and Curtis Mayfield are just a few of the names born in Illinois. Muddy Waters was born in Louisiana but lived most of his life in the Chicago area, and in fact died in Westmont.
Rap has an impressive list of Chicagoans that includes, Kanye West, Ludacris, Common, and R. Kelly. Punk/New Wave is represented by Rise Against and the Smashing Pumpkins. Other big names from Illinois include Bill Quateman, Alison Krause, Survivor, Burl Ives, and of course I've written about my friends Ricky Franz, and Dave Tamkin.
Since I am mostly a fan of Rock and Pop, the names that caught my attention was star studded to say the least. I have listed them below in order of who I liked, or by who I thought was the bigger name. Of course you will not agree with my list, and that's perfectly OK since I don't really care about your list. (I'm of course sort of kidding, as far as I would you tell you face to face.)
#10 Richard Marx is a C+/B- celebrity, on his good days, but he has sold millions of records so he absolutely belongs in the number 10 spot on my list. In the late 1980's and early 1990's he could not stay off the top 40 hit list, and he had a string of albums go platinum. Also, he managed to snag Daisy Fuentes as his wife in 2015 and that gets him on my list.
https://youtu.be/TpKxH2dDqEM?list=TLPQMjEwMTIwMjH0Zb57Lr7ukg Copy this link to hear him sing.
#9 The Buckinghams, in the mid 1960's, were the kings of the town with a slew of top 40 hit songs. While most of their success was regional they did score big with "Kind of a Drag', and this chart topper. https://youtu.be/TpKxH2dDqEM?list=TLPQMjEwMTIwMjH0Zb57Lr7ukg
#8 Dan Fogelberg, from Peoria, was a folk/country/pop, singer/songwriter, who scored big in the 1970's and 80's. His beautiful song, "Run for the Roses" makes a yearly comeback on each Kentucky Derby telecast, but my favorite song of his, is a tribute to his father, and it makes me remember my dad every time I hear it.
#7 Earth, Wind, and Fire being from Chicago shocked me for some reason. I don't know where I thought they were from, but it wasn't Chicago. Starting in 1969 they exploded onto the musical stage and managed to stay at the top thru the many changes in music during the 60's, 70's, and 80's. they were just as comfortable singing funk as soul, and as popular during the Disco era as they were during the Psychedellic Soul era. https://youtu.be/Gs069dndIYk
#6 Steve Goodman was more proud to be a Cubs fan, than he was to be one of the most successful folk singers of all time. His body of music is unbelievable, especially for a guy who only lived to see 36 years of age. He was, and is, a Chicago legend, and he is one of the four names on this list I was lucky enough to see live. "The City of New Orleans", is his most popular song by a mile, but I like this one better.
#5 Cheap Trick is arguably the best thing to come out of Rockford ever. Another of the bands on this list I've seen live, they still put on a fabulous show, and have the massive list of hits to make the show last a long while. They had a major influence on punk, metal, and alternative rock, an impressive triple play of talent. It was hard to pick one song but this performance will give you a complete flavor.
#4 Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah come in at number 4 with me and I know many of you are saying, who? They are almost completely unknown outside of Chicago, and they never had a hit song nationally, but the one song they did score with is one of my all time favorites, and one that will be played at my memorial service when I die.
#3 Styx starts our final run of superbands. Starting in 1972, and running until 1984, they had hit after hit, and a string of successful albums. Over the years they've added and subtracted band members, sued each other, and fought over who had the rights to the name, but are still playing and making money. This was their first monster hit, and the song that put them on the map. https://youtu.be/QumxOQganfo?list=TLPQMjEwMTIwMjH0Zb57Lr7ukg
#2 Chicago probably should be number one, except for the song I've selected for that band. Many of you will say that they peaked at their Chicago 1 album, but for me it was always about how they changed the music world that kept me loving them. If you listen to pop/rock/soul before Chicago started, and then listen to that music today, you can see how they were one of the biggest influences on the music industry, up there with the Beatles in stature. Horns, strings, orchestral arrangements, all came about because of Chicago. The biggest success in music to come from the city of Chicago of all time. Here is just one of forty songs I could have picked.
#1 REO Speedwagon gets the nod at number one because they've written, and sang, the greatest closing concert song of all time. The pride of Champaign, started in 1967 and struggled for years to make it big. Suddenly in the early 1980's they exploded in popularity and haven't looked back since. They have a bunch of great songs that will make you literally stand up and dance. They did a live concert for one of the cable channels a few years back, with Chicago, that may be the greatest concert ever produced. Look for it on YouTube and if you find it watch the whole show. Here is the greatest closing concert song ever written.
So there you have my list of Illinois born, or bred, talent. I hope you liked this adventure, and if you are bored, go to YouTube and find some other songs of theirs.
(BTW - the other two bands on this list I've seen live are Styx and Chicago.)