Taft HS turns to band Chicago for hope in crisis
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School is turning to rock group Chicago and its hit "Saturday in the Park" as a reminder that better days are ahead once the pandemic crisis is over.
"It’s a symbol of hope," Taft principal Mark Grishaber said of the band’s famous song. Playing guitar on that song when it was recorded in 1972 was the late Terry Kath, who graduated from Taft in 1964 and co-founded the band 3 years later.
A flier recently designed by the school as a "thank you" to the frontline crisis workers includes the following lyrics from the song: "Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July. People dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream singing Italian songs … and I’ve been waiting such a longtime for Saturday."
Grishaber said that the 2020 calendar makes the song and its inspirational message as relevant as ever, especially during these trying times.
"At Taft High School we are well aware the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday in 2020. We thank our medical professionals, first responders and other frontline workers who are working around the clock to ensure that a day in the park will be waiting for us at the end of the battle against COVID-19," the flier states.
The song, which was written by band member Robert Lamm, also includes the words "a man playing guitar" that is a reference to Kath, according to Keith Nelms, who has organized Chicago tribute concerts at Taft.
Nelms said that he was working in the Schaumburg club B. Ginnings, which was owned by Chicago drummer Danny Saraphine, when he met Kath in 1976. Aside from Chicago, the club featured many national acts in the 1970s and the 1980s including AC-DC, Cheap Trick, the Scorpions, Rush, Judas Priest, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Santana and Van Morrison.
"He was a good-natured guy," Nelms said. "I could feel his laughter I was so close to him. …. It rumbled through me."
Nelms said that Kath learned to play several instruments while growing up, especially during weekend getaways. "His family started him with a banjo, and he used take it to Cedar Lake up in Wisconsin," he said.
A display honoring Kath recently was installed at Taft and a music room is being named after him, Grishaber said. Kath played the stand-up bass in the school orchestra.
"He learned his craft here ‘Where The Eagles Soar,’ and he always came back to visit, almost every year, to say hello to old friends and new faces. His love for Taft was expressed by him in his song, ‘Alma Mater.’ No other words are needed," Nelms said at a Jan. 31 dedication ceremony at Taft.
Kath died in 1978 from an accidental gunshot wound, and later that year the band released the song "Alive Again," which a band member has described as a tribute to Kath’s lasting influence on the music world.
Chicago, which is known as a rock band with a distinctive sound built around the horns section, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.