Chicago seems to dominate the music scene in Illinois, especially when it comes the blues. Check out this list of music from and about Illinois.
- Stone Crazy-Buddy Guy was, like many of the blues artists closely identified with the Chicago Blues, born in the south, but the Louisiana-born blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter moved to Chicago in his very early 20s. Buddy Guy's Legends, the Chicago blues club he opened in 1989, is a must-stop for blues fans. Rolling Stone ranked Guy as 30th on the list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and the song "Stone Crazy" as 78th in their list of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. Guy still maintains an active touring schedule and recently released his autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story.
- Sholanda's House of Beauty-Shemekia Copeland is another southern-born blues musician that figures prominently in my memories of Chicago. We saw Copeland in concert at Buddy Guy's Legends a few years ago, and I fell in love with Copeland's song about her local beauty parlor. Legendary "Queen of the Blues" Koko Taylor's daughter officially named Copeland as the new "Queen of the Blues" at last year's Chicago Blues Festival.
- Mannish Boy-Many know Muddy Waters as the father of modern Chicago Blues, helping to popularize blues among British artists in the 1960s and earning the rank of 17th among Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Mississippi-born musician made his way to Chicago by his early 30s and remained actively performing and living near Chicago until nearly the end of his life in 1983. Mannish Boy is one of those quintessentially Muddy Waters' songs and covered by artists like Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Hank Williams Jr. and Aerosmith.
- Rockit-I vividly remember this Herbie Hancock video from the early days of MTV, back when they actually played music videos! The disembodied mannequin parts and visual representation of turntable scratching jerked their way into earning five MTV Video Music awards in 1984. The song became a break-dance anthem and scored Grammy success as the first jazz and hip-hop recording. The Chicago-born Hancock is a musician, composer, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist across musical genres that include jazz, bebop, funk, R&B, electronic and classical music. His musical career started in the early 1960s and today he continues to perform and win Grammy Awards.
- Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)-Lest you think Chicago Blues is the only music coming from Illinois, I present the Decatur-born and Champaign-raised bluegrass-country singer-songwriter and fiddler Allison Krauss. The unlikely pairing of Krauss and Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant resulted in the 2009 Grammy Album of the Year, Raising Sand. I'm not a big country or bluegrass fan, but I loved this cover of the old 1960s Everly Brothers tune from that album.
- Mercy Mercy Mercy-The Buckinghams, at first glance, may have looked like the usual mid-1960s bands, dressed in matching suits and sporting mop top haircuts, but I always especially loved their covers of soul songs like this 1967 Cannonball Adderly classic. The group disbanded in 1970, but members of the original group reformed the Buckinghams in 1980. I remember seeing the reformed Buckinghams in the mid-1980s. Members of the group continue to perform together at classic rock shows as well as pursuing musical projects individually.
- 1979-The video for this tune from 90s alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins was a nostalgic look at teenage life in the titular year and won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video in 1996. The band broke up in 2000. Frontman Billy Corgan and some members reformed the band in 2005, continuing to perform and record today.
- Kind of a Girl-Chicago-born James Iha co-founded the Smashing Pumpkins but opted not to rejoin the band when it reformed in 2005. Instead, he pursued projects like producing other acts and performing as a member of the power pop group Tinted Windows, which also includes members of Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne and Hanson. Tinted Windows is an idea that may sound like it wouldn't work to some, but I really liked the 2009 self-titled album.
- Thinking 'bout Somethin'-This 2010 song from Hanson (yes, that Hanson!) makes this list because of the clever video for it that mimics the "Shake a Tail Feather" number from one of my favorite films, and a Chicago classic, The Blues Brothers. Check out Weird Al's appearance as a tambourine player in this clip!
- (I Got Everything I Need) Almost-This track is from the Blues Brothers' 1978 "Briefcase Full of Blues" album. Joliet Jake (aka Chicago-born John Belushi) takes the lead on this song, which sounds like an old blues standard, but it's actually a cover of a song originally done in 1974 by the Downchild Blues Band.
What are your favorite Illinois songs and musicians?
© Dominique King 2012 All rights reserved