Chicago became one of the more controversial groups in this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Peter Cetera, the band’s co-founder and primary vocalist, decided to skip the induction altogether due to an impasse with the band over the group’s performance.
“I appreciate the award and I want to thank all of you who voted and finally made it happen,” Cetera said earlier this year. “Many of you will be disappointed and that’s understandable. Quite frankly, I’m disappointed as well. There comes a time when you need to make a decision based on what’s best for you without worrying about the consequences and this [is] that time.”
Co-founder Robert Lamm showed up and spoke about the induction, reuniting with old friends and Cetera-gate.
How did it feel being onstage? Was it similar to what you thought it would be?
Well, I really didn’t have preconceptions to what it would be. I did know that rehearsal and sound check went really swimmingly yesterday. But I was still jangled from having felt so nervous about speaking. By the time it was time to play, I still had some nerves. And I never do! I get excited before I go onstage and play, but I’m not usually nervous. And I’m still nervous! Right now! It was that gripping, “Am I worthy?” thing that we get in the middle of the night from time to time. Am I worthy? Because I want to be worthy.
What’s the experience been like for you to be here? Who have you met that you haven’t seen before.
We met Cheap Trick for the rehearsal for the finale. And that was lovely. I met Sheryl Crow for the first time. I love Grace Potter’s work, so I got to meet her. Met a couple of the N.W.A crew.
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Were they familiar with your work?
I’m sure. Yeah. Actually, when I was standing downstairs in the hallway, Steve Miller walked in. I haven’t seen him since 1969. He just looked at me, gave me a big hug and said, “Why has it been so fucking long?” I told him that I had the poster of the show where he opened for Chicago. He had the poster, I had the poster and we were both considering bringing it along with us for each of us to sign. But it was better seeing him and seeing how well he’s doing and watching his performance. It was great fun. That was my favorite performance of the night.
How’d it feel without Peter Cetera at the event?
The Deep Purple guys aren’t playing now, but it’s just the fact that they stood up and stood with the band and accepted the honor. And it is an honor [and] that’s the way it should have been. If Peter didn’t want to play or couldn’t play or couldn’t sing or whatever, at least he could have stood with us. I think he certainly deserves it. I think it’s unfortunate.
Did he want to change the key of “25 or 6 to 4” or something like that?
Yeah, and it’s not like a half step either way. He wanted to drop it down from A to E. So it’s a big jump. [Drops voice] That’s down here. And normally, if it’s just a four-piece band you can do it, but with horns, you got to transfer those… It’s not something that we wanted to do for a one-off.
There was a lot of back and forth on if he would come or not.
Well, we made it clear to him that he was welcome. I made it clear, and I perhaps spoke out of turn by giving interviews after it had been announced that we were going to be inducted. I was asked, “Are Danny and Peter going to play?” “Well yeah, I think so,” and he got completely crazy about it. Like I shouldn’t be speaking for him. I wasn’t speaking for him. So I apologized. I’m sorry if he felt I overstepped my responsibility. Anyway. That’s all insignificant stuff. It would have been lovely to have him here, and we’ve always made that plain.
Now we just have to find Donnie Dacus.
I saw Donnie last week! Yeah, He didn’t have enough tenure to be here. And really, I think this honor was more about the first seven, eight albums, anyway. So …
Additional reporting by David Browne