Chicago, “Skinny Boy” from Chicago VII (1974): Saturdays in the Park

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Chicago VII may well be the band’s last truly great album. A mixture of jazz, rock and funk help it rank in the Top 3 of my favorite Chicago albums. This doesn’t mean that this 1974 release is without its quirks.

Last week, we talked about a weird left turn with the Robert Lamm-penned, Peter Cetera-sung track “Woman Don’t Want to Love Me.” This week, we close out the album with “Skinny Boy,” composed and sung by Lamm.

The song is undeniably funky, as Lamm’s voice lends a textured nuanced missing in Cetera’s vocal on the prior Chicago track. Lyrically, the song is straight forward and fun.

When I was a young skinny boy, my mama said to me
the world out there is hard and dirty,
Mean as it wants to be.
I know there’s gonna be times when you’re down and out,
so, listen now, kid; listen now, son.
I’ll tell you what it’s all about.
You gotta try to keep your head above the water,
that’s what my mama told me.
You gotta try to keep a step ahead of time,
and even though you do some things you shouldn’t ought to,
Shouldn’t ought to,
if you love your brothers, love will come back to you.

It’s fun and effective, especially with the Pointer Sisters funking up the call-and-response background vocals and Terry Kath holding down the big Motown bass bottom. Robert Lamm even works with James Pankow to craft a horns chart, which is near perfect.

What’s confounding is why the song even made it on Chicago VII, as it was also recorded for Lamm’s first solo album of the same name. It actually appears on that project more or less as it is here! I’m sure the other composers in Chicago had songs laying around which could have been a suitable closer.

As it stands, “Skinny Boy” is a weird little treat to end a great album. Perhaps ace producer James William Guercio will one day shed some light about the details of the politics behind this song’s selection.


‘Saturdays in the Park’ is a multi-writer, song-by-song examination of the music of Chicago. Find it here at Something Else! each weekend.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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  • Peter M

    Will miss you talking about this album…VIII has a few hits and too many misses!

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