Chicago, “Take Me Back to Chicago” from Chicago XI (1977): One Track Mind

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Chicago XI, released on September 12, 1977, is best remembered today for its Grammy-winning No. 4 smash “Baby, What a Big Surprise” — or, for those who followed Chicago more closely, as the final album to feature the late guitarist Terry Kath.

For those willing to dig more deeply, however, there is “Take Me Back to Chicago,” one of this studio effort’s too-often-overlooked gems. Co-written by drummer Danny Seraphine with Hawk Wolinski of Rufus fame, and sung with such burgeoning emotion by Chicago’s Robert Lamm, the track was inspired by a late friend of Seraphine’s named Fred Pappalardo.

Pappalardo, who used the stage name Fred Page as a drummer with the band Illinois Speed Press, shared Chicago connections in manager James William Guercio and label Columbia. That only deepened his friendship with Danny Seraphine. Unfortunately, Pappalardo later became gravely ill. What happened next put everything in perspective for Seraphine.

“This was after we had made it; we were selling out arenas,” Danny Seraphine tells us in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “A dear friend of mine called me and said: ‘Danny, Fred is pretty sick. He’d like to see you.’ I was just about to go on a tour; we were leaving in two days. I said, ‘I’ll come by after I get back.’ He said: ‘Danny, he might not be here when you get back.’ I said: ‘OK, I’ll be right over.’ He was in a ward, and we talked. It was tearful, very tearful. I knew I was saying goodbye to him, basically. I thanked him for being such a friend.”

Then, it was time to go and, in that moment, Danny Seraphine found the inspiration for a song that would eventually become a long-ago No. 63 charter for Chicago.

“A nurse came in and said she was going to put him on a bed pan, and he asked me to leave because he didn’t want me to remember me like that,” Seraphine tells us. “That’s where the line ‘remember me at my best’ comes from. That really stuck with me; it really haunted me. One night, I woke up and I just wrote down these lyrics. That became ‘Take Me Back to Chicago.'”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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