#MusicMonday – February 15, 2021

Ooh-ooh, no, baby please don’t go…Music Monday wants to serenade you on this day after Valentine’s Day.

Last week, when I was closing out the Earth Wind and Fire song about the end of a relationship, I had mentioned that when Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire toured together in 2004, a member from each group performed the other group’s classic song about breaking up. Former Chicago keyboardist/vocalist Bill Champlin joined in “After The Love Has Gone,” a song he co-wrote, and Earth Wind and Fire co-founding member/vocalist Philip Bailey joined Chicago on one of their songs, the first such sad, mourn-y, breakup-y song by the group.

“If You Leave Me Now” is a single performed by Chicago for Chicago X, the group’s tenth studio album. Written and sung by founding member and bass player Peter Cetera, the single was released on July 31, 1976. Originally written during recording for Chicago VII, Cetera penned the song at the same time as “Wishing You Were Here.”

While love songs were not new for Chicago, this song was at the time a big departure from the group’s usual sound, but that change paid off big, as it was their first #1 single atop the Billboard Hot 100, reaching that point on October 23, 1976 and staying there for two weeks (#48 year-ending 1976). In addition to that achievement, “If You Leave Me Now” reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart (#15 year-ending 1976), was Chicago’s best-selling single internationally at the time, and was one of five non-disco singles to reach #1 during a nine-month period in 1976. It could easily be heard on several different radio stations within the same market that featured different formats at the same time.

As I mentioned, Chicago also had Earth Wind and Fire founding member Philip Bailey perform the song with them during their 2004-2006 tours, but Chicago also featured the song in a fundraising effort. In 2010, they teamed up with the American Cancer Society and offered an opportunity to bid for a chance to perform the song live in concert with the band, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society to help fight breast cancer. I actually have the Blu-Ray of Chicago in Chicago, which featured a woman who had the chance to perform with the group at a concert in July 2010. The fundraiser was successful, and was done in the following years.

Live at SoundStage (WTTW Chicago, 2000)

Peter Cetera re-recorded the song for his 1997 album You’re The Inspiration: A Collection. The song is still part of Chicago’s (and Peter Cetera’s) set list, and has been performed by Jason Scheff, Keith Howland (his sound gives it a bit of a country sound, but it is soooo good!), Jeff Coffey, and Neil Donnell.

Here’s the original album version:

Peter Cetera performing it live:

Keith Howland’s version, from A&E Live By Request in 2002:

And of course, the aforementioned contribution of Philip Bailey, from the Chicago/Earth Wind and Fire concert Live at the Greek Theatre in August 2004.

Ooooh, so nice.

It’s a nice song, but definitely a departure from what Chicago was known for at the time. They were admittedly hesitant at the time to release it (they thought they were “selling out”), but considering their fans’ response to it, and how it has been received over the years, not to mention how much money it has fundraised all for the opportunity to sing it live, they made the right choice to release it.

And to think, it is the painful, soulful agony of a breakup.

Day after Valentine’s Day, friends!

Have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!

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