James Pankow once refused Frank Sinatra’s request to cover Chicago: ‘I still wonder if I did the right thing’

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Chicago turned down a chance to have Frank Sinatra cover one of their most recognizable love songs, because James Pankow didn’t want alter it for Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Seems Sinatra came across “Colour My World” at the turn of the 1970s, after its inclusion on Chicago II. The Pankow-penned song would shoot to No. 7 on the Billboard charts in 1971, as sung by the late Terry Kath. (Bill Champlin later took over the lead; since the early 1990s, Robert Lamm has been the featured vocalist.) Pankow, Chicago’s trombone player, memorably gave the original solo to Walter Parazaider, who added a delicately emotive flute.

Thing is, “Colour My World” still wasn’t long enough, at least by Sinatra’s standards. So, he “approached my camp,” Pankow tells Songfacts, “asking me if I would write another verse — because he was very much interested in singing the song on a record. He wanted to record the song and do his rendition of it, but he felt it needed another verse for him to give it justice.”

Pankow said he thought long and hard about it, too. “After all, this was the great, legendary Frank Sinatra, and if I was going to modify anything that had been created by me for this band, it would have to be for a very, very special reason,” James Pankow says. Ultimately, however, “I wound up saying no, because as much as I was thrilled to the bone by Mr. Sinatra asking me to do this, because he wanted to perform the song, I felt that I was violating the purity, the essence of the song that represents a very, very intimate special moment to me in terms of its composition.”

Frank Sinatra, who went on to record versions of the Beatles’ “Something” and Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” never returned to this Chicago gem. “I said no to Frank Sinatra’s request, and to this day I still wonder if I did the right thing,” Pankow adds, laughing. “There might be a Sinatra record with that song on it somewhere if I had said yes, and that would have been a great homage, to not only the song, but to the band. But we’ll never know, will we?”

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  • justiceminister

    A little short sighted of Mr Pankow but we were all a lot younger and dumber back in those days.

  • Alberto Aguilera McLaoch

    Not everything is about money and neither Pankow nor Chicago needed Sinatra at all. They have reached heights in their own right.