Why It’s Time For a New “Chicago” Song
today at 4:47 pm
Any time any of the two most celebrated songs about our fair city, Chicago, My Kind of Town or Chicago, That Toddlin’ Town storm my acoustic turf, I marvel not at why they are regarded as beloved, but rather as misbegotten.
Apart from compositions afflicted by melodies that wobble about lost and dazed in that no-man’s-land between jazz and show tune, and matched in mediocrity by sets of stanzas I’m convinced were dashed off between chomps of takeout corned beef sandwiches from Katz’s Deli by indifferent TinPan Alley windbags who seldom stepped their two-toned oxfords inside the boundaries of our Windy City.
Let’s cross examine (and my “cross” I mean only “pissed off”) the literary parts of these perfunctorily pencilled musical farces.
“That Toddlin’ Town: Talk about condescension! Hey, who else toddles but a wadding baby? “I saw a man he danced with his wife: How quaint we Midwestern bumpkins were! We hadn’t yet advanced to the kind of sophisticated, high-toned affairs that erotically infested Park Avenue! “They do things that don’t do on Broadway! Who asked that hack for the comparison to New York? This was supposed to be a song about Chicago, presumably written by a native, not by an occupying force of a literary carpetbaggers. And guess what else, according this lyric’s warped take on our cuisine: “breast of squab” is a signature dish of ours. When was the last time you ordered breast of squab at Pizzeria Uno? I didn’t thing so. But wait! The final bayoneting is coming, Here’s the last line, the death knell for this gasping, croaking, hospice patient of a song: “I feel sympathy for that wonderful windy town” Really! Honestagod! And we bought–nay embraced– this, atrocity of a counterfeit anthem like the myopic provincials the authors clearly considered us to be.
“My Kind of Town: Now I ask you, would any sane homo sapiens born and reared in Chicago or Dubuque or Denver, ever dream of referring to his or her town as, my kind of town? Again, the stink from this abomination of a tune surely drifted in here like some hobo from out of town. And the writer, Sammy Cahn, virually confesses as much, judging from the line “Each time I roam, Chicago is calling me home.” — essentially underscoring the point by implying that he has made his getaway from usat least a few times. Oh, and the part about “calling me home.” That’s just a crock of balderdash. Sammy was born and raised on the Lower East Side. Why are we not surprised?
Full disclosure department: “Toddlin” composer-lyricist, Fred Fisher, though born in Cologne. Germany, did indeed–before he trundled off to Tin Pan Alley–launch his career in Chicago. But he fled, and swiftly The embodiment of his creative gifts can be calibrated via a biography that reveals the first hit in his body of work, as “If the Man In the Moon Were a Coon”, a career disfigurement that should most certainly have by now been obliterated from memory in severe disgrace. Kind of like his Chicago song, almost a century old now, should be.. And please, at the retirement party, let’s include Sammy Cahn’s creaky geezer of verse and chorus.
NOTE: Before the vagaries of advertising fashion (not to mention the synthesizer) all but evaporated Chicagos formidable commercial music producers (along with them two cavernous Universal Company music studios), a crowd of brilliant composer/arranger/melodist talents inhabited the our bustling music scene–luminaries like Dick Marx, Dick Reynolds, Gary Klaff, Paul Libman, et al. Last I looked, Reynolds, Klaff and Libman were still vertical. Could it be time to enlist them to the noble task of manufacturing a shiny new Chicago anthem, eh?