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The result evoked what the floor show would have been like in a decadent, gaslit Weimar-era Berlin nightspot if Bertolt Brecht and Joe Venuti had been doing shots of absinthe with Wallace Stevens and e.e. cummings at Salvador Dali
Chicago has made some very, very important contributions to society. The City of Big Shoulders has given us deep dish pizza, economy-sized gangland slayings, the Sears catalog, a baseball club for masochists, and those nifty Italian steak sandwiches that are dipped completely in the beef juices before serving and why these things aren’t a staple here in the grease-happy South is beyond me.
Chicago also gave us several vital contributions to American music. It acted as an early incubator for jazz, when King Oliver came up from New Orleans and soon unleashed a young Louis Armstrong on the world. It was the birthplace of electric blues, as Delta musicians arrived with their country blues tradition and found that acoustic guitars could not be heard over those damned elevated trains. It gave us the band Chicago, who were recently found not guilty of causing Peter Cetera’s solo career in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. It also gave us The Blues Brothers, which brought such uniquely American styles as blues, rhythm-and-blues, and soul music to a new audience.
(On a side note, The Blues Brothers was recently exonerated of most culpability in all resultant films. The Supreme Court found in the case of U.S. vs. Aykroyd , that director John Landis and the estate of John Belushi could not be held responsible for Caddyshack II, Dr. Detroit, My Stepmother is an Alien, Ghostbusters II or Nothing But Trouble. Landis was found partially responsible for Blues Brothers 2000, and ordered to pay damages in the amount of $156.75 to all 24 people who saw it.)
But what has Chicago done for us lately? It has been almost two decades since the Bears were any fun to watch. The Bulls have returned to their pre-Jordan levels of sucking. I recently saw the Blackhawks team portrait on the side of a milk carton. The White Sox haven’t done anything interesting since 1919 (and let’s not get me started on that ). As for the Cubs, God bless ‘em, they’re still the Cubs. Of course, you could make a case for Oprah Winfrey, but when was the last time she won a major sporting event?
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.