Yesterday I learned that one of my favorite musicians, Bill Champlin, left one of my favorite bands-- Chicago. While not an original member of the band, Bill had been in Chicago for over 28 years and was an integral part of their popular renaissance in the eighties. And while it wasn't so much Bill's voice that got me hooked on Chicago's music as an eleven year old boy back in the fall of 1988, it was largely Bill's voice which held my interest in the band's recent back catalog-- before I'd started to discover their earlier works with the late great Terry Kath.
It was through Bill's gritty soulful vocals that I discovered his OTHER band, The Sons of Champlin-- a staple of the San Francisco Bay area music scene of the late sixties and into the seventies. And in discovering the Sons, I also branched out into some of their contemporaries like Tower of Power and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Due to lack of significant output in recent years, my interest in Chicago has waned. However they are my musical compass... Whenever life has been too overwhelming or confusing it's been Chicago's music I've returned to. And it's that music that brought me back to happier times and given me the strength and focus to re-center and re-focus on life before tackling whatever issues had been plaguing me.
Bill's departure, while not entirely unexpected given his level of professionalism and musical adventurousness contrasted with the complacency of his now former band is somewhat bittersweet. Now Bill has the time to devote to making new music, to being himself and stretching out-- to being the consumate professional he's always been at heart. But on the flipside, Chicago has lost one of the few (if not only) bandmember interested in creating new music and driving forward rather than looking back.
During Bill's 28 plus tenure in Chicago, I had the pleasure of seeing them live 9 times. I'll always treasure my memories of those shows... the first two in 1993 and 1994 featured 6 hour (roundtrip) road trips from the Northern tier of NY to the capitol district (Albany/Latham/Saratoga Springs) 3 hours south with my father I'll hold especially dear. Since I've moved over 16 hours away from my parents my time with them is limited these days-- I treasure the special times I had with them when I was growing up and lived closer-- and I hold my memories of the Chicago concerts we attended together especially dear.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill in 1994 after Chicago's concert @ the Starlite Theatre in Latham and again the following year prior to their concert at the Joyce Center @ Notre Dame. Bill was then and from what I can tell, continues to be, a class act.
I will continue to enjoy the music Bill has already recorded and look forward to the music he's yet to create. I'm excited about what the future has in store for him and at the same time growing more pessimistic about the future creative output (or lack thereof) of his former band in his absence.
Here's Bill performing Turn Your Love Around back in 1994:
For more Bill Champlin related goodness:
More Bill Champlin related reviews
Bill Champlin's Official Website