When Chicago Spent "Saturday in the Park"

"Saturday in the Park"
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Rhino Records

Chicago's "Saturday in the Park" is unquestionably one of the signature songs by the band - whether you're a fan of their jazz-rock leanings of the '70s or their more mainstream pop of the '80s and beyond. Propelled by Robert Lamm's rollicking piano and the band's signature horn fills, it's a colorful celebration of a thrilling day out. Happy people, guitar-slinging buskers and that infamous ice cream man singing nonsense Italian lyrics set the scene.

And the song, in case you were wondering, came about exactly how you think it might have.

Walter Parazaider, who played saxophone for the band from their inception until his retirement in 2017, told the story on the band's official site: then sharing a hotel room in New York at the time, the bandmates spent a day together in Central Park on - you guessed it, from the lyrics - July 4. (The holiday in fact fell on a Saturday in 1970.) "Robert came back to the hotel from Central Park very excited after seeing the steel drum players, singers, dancers and jugglers," Parazaider said. "I said, 'Man, it's time to put music to this!"

Lamm later told Billboard he was further inspired by some home movie footage he filmed from the same trip. "I was looking at footage from a film I shot in Central Park, over a couple of years, back in the early ‘70s," he explained. "I shot this film and somewhere down the line I edited it into some kind of a narrative, and as I watched the film I jotted down some ideas based on what I was seeing and had experienced. And it was really kind of that peace and love thing that happened in Central Park and in many parks all over the world, perhaps on a Saturday, where people just relax and enjoy each other’s presence, and the activities we observe and the feelings we get from feeling a part of a day like that."

Fans clearly got the message: "Saturday in the Park" became the group's biggest hit to date when it was spun off as a single from Chicago V in 1972, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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