Chicago—one of history’s most prolific rock bands—has its first #1 hit on October 23, 1976, with “If You Leave Me Now.”
The rock band Chicago churned out full-length albums at a rate that’s never been surpassed by a pop group of their stature. Not only did the group release nine albums in their first seven years of existence (1969-75), but among those nine releases were four double albums and one quadruple album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall (1971). That’s 16 LPs in seven years, all of them selling at an incredible rate, which means that in terms of sheer tonnage, Chicago probably shipped more vinyl than any other American rock band in the 1970s. It was a feat made all the more incredible by the fact that the members of Chicago could have walked through O’Hare Airport at the height of their success without attracting so much as a single screaming fan.
It’s not that Chicago’s fans didn’t love them, for the certainly did. But the collective ethos of the band was to keep individual egos out of things, even to the point of using a logo rather than a picture of the band on nearly every one of their albums. “Chicago is the most successful experiment in group therapy ever to go down in history,” founding member Robert Lamm has said. Critics may never have embraced the group’s jazzy, middle-of-the road sound, but with upwards of 150 million albums sold worldwide, it’s impossible to refute the quantitative argument for Chicago’s greatness.
Chicago’s success as album-sellers may overshadow their success on the singles charts, but not by very much. “If You Leave Me Now” became their first #1 hit on this day in 1976, but the group had already placed nine singles in the Billboard Top 10 by the time that Peter Cetera-penned ballad reached the top of the charts. Among those early hits were “25 Or 6 To 4″ (1970), “Saturday In The Park” (1972) and “Just You ‘N’ Me” (1973), and many more were to follow. Chicago earned two more #1 hits post-1976 with “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” (1982) and “Look Away” (1988), and seven other Top 10s, including “Baby What A Big Surprise” (1977), “Hard Habit To Break” and “You’re The Inspiration” (both 1982).