Reflecting on ‘The Night Chicago Died’
October 11th, 2016
With all the attention on violence in Chicago (thanks, Donald Trump), a Facebook friend mentioned that ’70s song, “The Night Chicago Died.”
I heard my mama cry
I heard her pray the night Chicago died
Brother what a night it really was
Brother what a fight it really was
I wondered if there was some real-life inspiration for the song, so I contacted Mitch Murray, the song-writer who helped write “The Night Chicago Died” for British pop band Paper Lace.
“I can see the topical significance,” he responded by email, but the lyrics don’t have any meaningful connection at all–then or now.
“Writing about crime, war and bloodshed was a way of making our songs stand out from the lovey-dovey run of the mill,” he says.
Murray acknowledges never having visited Chicago, which explains why one stanza rings flat. It goes:
“Daddy was a cop
On the East Side of Chicago…”
“To us Limeys, used to hearing so much New York talk in movies, the ‘East Side’ was the seamy side,” Murray wrote. Only after the song moved up the pop charts did he and his collaborator, the late Peter Callander, realize there wasn’t really an East Side to Chicago but for Lake Michigan.