Chicago has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever since their debut album, The Chicago Transit Authority, celebrated its 25th birthday in 1994. But they never even got onto the ballot until this year, a situation that enraged their passionate fan base to no end. To Chicago co-founder/keyboardist Robert Lamm, however, it was never that big of a deal. “If you’re nominated for a Grammy and you don’t get it, you don’t have a heart attack,” he says by phone just a few hours after learning he’d gotten in. “You just move on and keep working. That’s really what my attitude always was.”
We spoke with Lamm about the big news, sharing the stage with N.W.A, dealing with brutal rock critics and the possibility of reuniting with former Chicago frontman Peter Cetera for the first time since Cetera left the band in 1985.
Congrats on the big news. Who told you?
I got a call from Peter Schivarelli, Chicago’s manager, about this and some other issues. We’re about to ramp up and play a New Year’s Eve show for NBC in Chicago and then go on to Asia, so we have some production things we’re talking about. The good news came in, and it’s quite gratifying.
Are you surprised?
I can’t say I’m 100 percent surprised since we did get word that we’d been nominated. Heaven knows we’ve been eligible for a long time, so that it was always something that was possible. Frankly, I was very surprised that we’d been nominated.
It’s been so long that we’ve been eligible. I think that the body of work, even just considering the work we did on the first album and beyond, certainly changed the face of pop music and is considered influential. As a composer, I can tell you that a number of songs that Chicago recorded have been sampled a number of times by contemporary artists, so that’s an indication that the music seems timeless.
How often did you hear from fans that were upset you weren’t in?
For years now, whenever the inductees were announced there was always a number of DJs or entertainment reporters who would make the point of, “What’s going on here? Why aren’t these guys in the Hall of Fame?” That was endorsed by our fans to the degree that we know what our fans are thinking.
Did it personally bother you that you didn’t get in all those years?
Thankfully, we’ve never stopped touring and for at least the first 40 years, we recorded pretty steadily when we weren’t touring, so we were always busy looking ahead to what was next.