August 4th, 1830 is a day regarded by Historians in Illinois as the day Chicago was recognized. Given Chicago’s location by the Great Lakes, financiers looked at the land as an opportunity for a transportation hub. The Illinois legislature appointed James Thompson to survey and plat the town which had a population of about 100 people. He laid out the town for Canal Commissioners in preparation for the sale of lots to finance a proposed Illinois and Michigan Canal; its first sales on Sept. 4, 1830. The filing of the plans marked the first recognition of the municipality of Chicago.
Originally the area was inhabited by native Algonquian people including the Mascouten and Miami. The name Chicago came from a French version of the native word Shikaakwa, or Stinky Onion, due to wild garlic growing abundandlty in the area. The first known reference of the area of Chicago came in a memoir from 1679 by Robert De LaSalle, noting the abundance of Chicagoua. Chicago’s first permanent, non-native settler is a black man that goes by the name of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable and regarded as the founder of Chicago. The farm he built at the mouth of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan is now a national historical landmark at what is now 401 N Michigan Ave, Pioneer Court.
On August 12th, 1833 the Town of Chicago was established with a population of 350. One year later the first Schooner named the Illinois from New York enters the harbor, marking Great Lakes trade relationship between the two booming cities. Rich farmlands attracted many Yankee settlers that overnight created a city through real estate and trade. The city quickly grew demanding warehouse, rails and dock yards to be built for transportation and trade. By 1850’s over 30 rail lines entered the city making Chicago the transportation hub of the United States. Chicago was granted a city charter by the state of Illinois on March 4, 1837 and the city of Chicago was born with over 4,000 to its population.
On August 5th 1966 Martin Luther King Jr., during the fair housing protests in Marquette Park, is met with 700 angry white protesters and gets struck by a brick.
MLK was in Chicago that day advocating with his demonstrators that this leasing office on 63rd Street in the South Side sell properties on a non-discriminatory basis in the mostly white Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Bricks and bottles thrown, racial slurs hurled, pushing, shoving, cops in-between King, his demonstrators and the large white crowd from Chicago’s local south side. At least 30 people were injured and 40 were arrested. Apparently after this whole ordeal King was unafraid and un-shaken stating, “All in a day’s work“.
Post 1964 America with the signing of the Civil Rights Act was hopeful for the future of its minority citizens. However the ghettoes in northern cities were still quite affected and mandated by Jim Crow laws. King even promoted this issue by moving into a Chicago apartment in 1966 infested with rats and roaches. This was ideally to expose the segregated housing and redlining issues that were designed against blacks and minorities largely prevalent in major American cities, especially Chicago.
Segregated cities are still an issue today, albeit laws and ordinances against such civil illnesses. Today let us remember that MLK Jr. was working tirelessly to improve the equity and lifestyles of black Americans and all those that shared in his vision of peace and unity.
The year is 1951 on the 25th of July. The bassist Verdine White, who is most known for playing with Earth, Wind, and Fire, was born in Chicago Illinois. Verdine White is ranked as being the no. 27th all time bass player by Bass Player’s List of the 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time. He started playing with Earth, Wind, and Fire at the age of seventeen due to his older brother Maurice White being the founder, main record producer, and co-lead singer. Today his net worth is over 10 million dollars. These are the types of success stories that define Chicago music and culture in history.
In an interview with Microphone Check with Frannie and Ali, Verdine White got to sit down with the platform to give a little insight into the history of himself and the great band that became Earth, Wind, and Fire. His older brother Maurice and Ramsey Lewis originally were going to name the band Salty Peppers (Salt N Peppa ended up being a thing years later ironically enough) until Maurice decided to name the band after his astrological chart which did not contain the element water. It only had earth, air, and fire; Maurice decided to rename air to wind. And thus a legendary band is born.
According to Verdine White his older brother Maurice instilled a foundational sound and musicality in the group through his extensive study of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He credits Maurice with his and the entire bands legacy and success. Verdine White’s father was a saxophonist and a drummer by passion and a doctor by trade. He instilled an attitude of strict proper musicianship in his sons according to Verdine. Maurice was ten years older than Verdine elder and the two technically did not start playing together till they were out in California.
Verdine says Maurice was always encouraging and always took him seriously although, Verdine was not ready to keep up with his brother for years. One day Maurice told Verdine, “I need you at the studio in case the bass player doesn’t show up“. Even though the bass player did show up that day, the energy that Maurice wanted to give Verdine and uplift his little brother as a musician was definitely there! Even though it took years for Verdine White to end up playing with his beloved brother, that is now past on, from age ten onward Verdine’s life has been nothing but music.
It was interesting to read about his experiences in Chicago through the 60’s, according to him music related things were happening constantly. Whether Verdine was practicing to keep up with his brothers and father, attending shows with his mother, putting on events for Maurice, or just studying and learning from his older contemporaries, Verdine was always entrenched within the culture of Chicago music. And to me the most awesome fact is that, according to Verdine, he was completely sober and focused through his teen years due to what was required of him as a musician. He did not party, he did not do drugs, there was only one thing he had to do back then and that was play music. Happy birthday to a real Chicago legend, Verdine White of Earth, Wind, and Fire!
The late 1970’s saw the rise of Disco Music all around the United States. In between numerous chart-topping hits and the dance clubs that were seemingly everywhere it had become clear that this new fad had firmly etched itself into the fabric of American Culture. However this new obsession was not without backlash as Rock ‘N’ Roll fans and disc jockeys alike had a special distaste for this new type of dance music. In fact, this distaste was so strong that it even spilled over into Major League Baseball in an event that became known as Disco Demolition.
It was July 12, 1979 and it was a humid summer night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, where the White Sox were hosting a twi-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. As the result of a losing season, the White Sox’ attendance was dwindling down to an average of just 16,000 people per game. White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was well known for using outlandish PR stunts in order to boost attendance, was looking for another way to boost attendance during another lost season.
Popular local radio DJ Steve Dahl, who worked for WLUP, developed a reputation for his hatred of disco as he would blow up records on his radio show. Representatives from the White Sox and WLUP radio station met to discuss a Disco Demolition themed promotion and they settled on Steve Dahl blowing up a crate of records in the outfield in between the two games. Tickets for that event went for as low as 98 cents if fans brought an album that they wanted to see get destroyed. Though around 20,000 people were expected to show up that night, the total attendance figure ended up being more than 50,000 people as fans continued to sneak in even after the gates had closed.
The first game took place without incident, as the Tigers ended up winning 4-1. Then, around 8:40PM everything changed. Steve Dahl drove out to center field in a jeep, dressed in a helmet and an army fatigue. He led the crowd in a “Disco Sucks!” chant before telling the 50,000+ attendees that this event was the world’s largest anti-disco rally. Dahl had the records in a giant box, ready to be blown up. After counting up to 4, Dahl let loose on the explosion and fiery streaks lit up the outfield followed up by large scores of debris.
However what really is notable about all of this, is the events that followed. After Dahl exited the field following the demolition, a few restless fans stormed the field in a fit of celebration. After the first few, the fans kept coming and coming. Just a few minutes later, Comiskey Park was in total chaos. The bases had been stolen, the outfield was in flames and empty liquor bottles were all over the place. There was even a thick veil of weed smoke that covered a chunk of the stadium due to a massive amount of marijuana consumption among the patrons.
White Sox personnel tried everything in their power to calm things down. Announcer Harry Carray tried convincing fans to go back to their seats over the intercom, Take Me Out To The Ballgame played and security was everywhere trying their best to keep the peace. It was not until the Chicago Police Department arrived dressed in full riot gear that things finally started to calm down. In total, 39 people were arrested for Disorderly Conduct, numerous people suffered minor injuries and the field was too badly damaged for the two teams to play on.
A couple of things happened after that night. First, the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader due to the damage of the stadium. Secondly, the popularity of Disco waned as the 1980’s were just around the corner. Whether Disco Demolition was a direct cause of Disco’s fade into the background has been a subject of debate in the 41 years since. Steve Dahl marked in an interview years later that Disco was more than likely on its way out either way. However, the music faded out so quickly after that night that it seems likely Disco Demolition is at least partly to blame.
Chicago has long been well known for its stunning skylines and innovative take on architecture. However what few people know is that Chicago is actually the birthplace of the modern day skyscraper.
Designed by architect William Le BaronJenney in 1884, The Home Insurance Building opened its doors a year later at the intersection of LaSalle and Adams. Consisting of 10 stories and standing at 138 feet in height, The Home Insurance Building has come to be known as the world’s first skyscraper. It was the first building of its kind whose frame held structural steel, though the majority of it consisted of wrought iron and cast.
Historians attribute the construction of The Home Insurance Building to the architectural boom that took place in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. As a result of the aforementioned fire, 3.3 square miles of the cityscape was left destroyed, and since the majority of its buildings back then were made of wood, nearly all of them burned down in the flames. With the majority of the city rotting in rubble, Chicago underwent one of the most famous architectural booms in history; one that would spur its economy as well as reshape the cities’ architectural outlook.
Replacing the wood structures that stood on Chicago’s grounds before the fire, the newer buildings were made out of stone, steel and iron. Building in this manner was considered to be ahead of its time and The Home Insurance Building served as a prime example of this new style of architecture. The Home Insurance Building became one of Jenney’s crowning architectural achievements, and it also spawned an entire generation of architects and engineers dubbed as “The Chicago School.”
This generation, which consisted of famous architects such as Daniel Burnham, continued to lay the groundwork for what the modern day skyscraper would eventually become. Though New York City eventually surpassed Chicago as the hub of architectural innovation, Chicago remains as the city that laid the groundwork for any and all innovation that followed. Chicago will forever remain the birthplace of the modern day skyscraper. Sadly, The Home Insurance Building was demolished in 1931 and the LaSalle Bank Building now stands in its place.
After spending the previous seven years of his life focusing on his film career Elvis Presley made a triumphant return to live musical performance. In June of 1968 he bagan the taping of his revolutionary NBC special, Elvis. What was originally branded as a Christmas special the producers decided to market the event as a re-branding of Presley’s musical career. They aimed to gear the special towards a younger audience. However, what they did not know at the time was that it would become much more than that.
The special saw Presley in a couple of different performance settings. He performed two cuts standing up, which featured an epic instrumental section and more boisterous vocal performances from the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself. Another set featured Presley in a more intimate setting, sitting down in a circle with a live band. The atmosphere was more raw and stripped back as Presley communicated directly with the audience in between songs.
This notion of interactivity between the artist and their fan base was revolutionary for this time period. The intimate setting that Presley was cast in for this special laid the groundwork for future programs such as MTV’s Unplugged as well as NPR’s Tiny Desk series, both of which have become staples in the history of music programming. The special was an instant hit when it came out as well.
Airing on December 3, 1968, “Elvis” topped the Nielsen Television Ratings Chart for that week, became the most watched show of that season and garnered Presley a ton of critical acclaim in the process. Not to mention it also gave Presley’s music career a second wind. The very next month, January of 1969, Presley was already back in the studio working on his next full-length album. He teamed up with a house band called The Memphis Boys to record From Elvis in Memphis, which went on to become one of the biggest albums of his career.
From Elvis in Memphis peaked at number 13 on the Billboard top 200 and its lead single In The Ghetto reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles list. The album received universal acclaim from critics as well. Aside from being well-received at the time it came out From Elvis in Memphis has also stood the test of time. Numerous music writers have cited this album as being essential to Presley’s discography and Rolling Stone even rated it 190 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time back in 2003.
Elvis Presley is seen as a groundbreaking figure in the history of music for many reasons. He is widely dubbed as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He was also a pioneer for being a musician of his stature playing such a huge role in film and soundtrack recording. However there are more subtle reasons as well. Presley also ushered in a new era of music programming that thrived on an atmosphere of intimacy and a personal sense of interaction between artist and fan. He paved the way for the future of music programming, leaving a legacy that is being felt more than ever 40-plus years after his death. These are the reasons why the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is more than deserving of this week’s Throwback Thursday segment.
Chicago is a dynamic city filled with all kinds of draw ins from its history, architecture and especially music. Birthplace of house music, countless talented artists and jive with a bustling blues culture here in particular, it welcomes quite a variety of icons and artists to the city for its inspiring quality and treasure troves of figure heads to work. This weeks Throwback Thursday for June we remember the Rolling Stones passing through Chicago to leave their mark in music history!
When Starting their first tour in the United States the Rolling Stones first arrive in New York, June 1st, 1964;just a few months after the Beatles make their US debut. Following a few radio and television appearances and live performances the Stones note the absolute highlight of their trip: Recording at Chess Records on Michigan Ave. Owned by two Polish brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, it is home to many legendary blues artists such as Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, and most notably Muddy Waters. These Chicago Blues artists have been the driving force in the creation of the Rolling Stones. It is there they recorded some of their first hit singles to top American charts, already being popular in England.
June 10th, 1964 the Rolling Stones land in Chicago to record in the US for the first time at Chess Records Studio, the leading Blues recording label in the 50’s and 60’s. Legend has it that Muddy Waters was there himself to help the artists unpack. “2120 South Michigan Ave was hallowed ground. We got there on a last-minute arrangement by Andrew Oldham (manager)”, Keith Richards wrote in Life Magazine. “There in the perfect sound studio, in the room where everything we listened to was made, perhaps out of relief or just the fact that people like Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry and Willie Dixon were wandering in and out, we recorded 14 tracks in two days“. The studio would be later immortalized by the dedicated song 2120 South Michigan Ave.
It was in these two days their EP Five by Five and much of their second studio album 12×5, that both featured the address title track, were recorded. Keith Richards was quoted saying, “Everyone in England at the time was incapable… No one could get a really good funky American sound which is what WE were after. The best move we could possibly do was get to America as quickly as possible and record there”. Coming out of the sessions also is their hit single Its All Over Now that claimed their name to fame in the US. Other notable songs would include Time Is on My Side, Look What You Done and Down the Road Apiece. They would later return to Chess months later in November 1964, during their second US tour, where Kieth Richards lays down the riff to the legendary (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
Between sessions the Rolling Stones hold a press conference June 11 on Michigan Ave in front of the Tribune building. Mick Jagger was noted stating, “We have changed a bit since we got famous. I mean, how would you like to sing the same seven numbers every night? I may not be much of a singer but there is no artistry in that. Still, we do have fun as well“. Police later arrived to break up the press conference but not before jeering, “Get outta here or I’ll lock up the whole goddamned bunch“. The Rolling Stones never returned to Chess Record but held a big roll in bringing the Chicago Blues sound to mainstream audiences.
On June 6th 1892 the private company Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit (later renamed South Side Elevated Railroad) conducted their first ever L ride that morning at 7AM. The trains spanned from Congress to 39th street, now the south section of the Green Line, and extended to Jackson Park shortly after. The portion of the elevated line that ran between State and Wabash became to be known as the Alley “L”.
The early train car models featured wooden varnished and cushioned seats. Rides cost a nickel, ran for 24 hours, were lit by gas lamps and the steam-powered locomotives pulled the trains. Customers would have to deal with some steam, smoke and cinders from the engine but this was normal for the time period and the technology.
In fear of people falling of the platforms and onto the tracks they installed railings. Unfortunately these were cumbersome and did not always line up with the trains sliding into the station. After a short while they were removed. The Lake Street Elevated Railroad, today as the west section of the Green Line, was completed a year after just in time for the 1893 Worlds Fair held in Chicago.
In 1895 the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad added their services to Logan Square, Humbolt Park (demolished), Garfield Park (replaced) and Douglas Park areas branching off from downtown Chicago. Parts of this line is used now as the Blue and Pink Lines. It is the first of Chicago’s transit lines to be electrically powered and the first non-exhibition rapid transit system powered by electric traction motors in the United States. This technology was demonstrated on the “intramural railway” at the World Fair in Chicago.
The Northwestern Elevated Railroad emerged in 1900 with the original deadline being 1899 but construction temporarily halted two years prior due to financial backing issues. After an inaugural run declaring it unsafe, the company defiantly ran a train to the Loop, transferring onto Lake Street Elevated to avoid police. Eventually the company and the city reached an agreement. This line ran from the Loop to Wilson with a branch extending to Ravenswood and Albany Park. The branch now operates as the Brown Line while the main line to Wilson operates as the Red and Purple.
The merging of the South Side Elevated, Lake Street Elevated, Metropolitan West Side and Northwestern Elevated Railroad private companies created the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust (CER). Laying down the ground work for Chicago Rapid Trasit Company (CRT) in 1924, they continued under private ownership. After the opening of the subway system in 1943, by 1947 it merged into the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) we know today following a public takeover. Since its start over, 125 years later the CTA sees more than a million riders daily and has a combined 224.1 miles of rail. The rails are now electric, cleaner, and quieter.
All hail to the Queen! Welcome into her Queendom! Dana Elaine Owens has graced the world with her rapping style, elegance and courageous character. She wears many hats in the industry as a musician, television, film actress and producer, activist, president of a music label and entrepreneur. Might I add she is an CoverGirl brand spokesperson. Her personality alone turned her into an enterprise and a legendary female rapper.
“I was always taught to walk with my head up, to be a Queen”
Queen Latifah came in the rap game raising eyebrows from day one. Why are women not seen as equal to men? Why are women being disrespected in society by being called negative names and seen only as sex symbols? Was this our fault? NO! The Queen not only talked about the discrimination and lack of respect towards women she also rapped about how women need to also get together on their own while continuing to be strong.
In the 80’s and 90’s decade women weren’t to fond to be a companion in rap culture. Queen Latifah image was about strength, she never wore clothes to show off her body, only comfortable African culture apparel, casual clothing and sneakers. As her career evolved she still kept it classy and sensual. Her topics were about sexism, power and independence. This theme led to her hit song (above) “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y” (below)
Queen Latifah is still diligent in her current career pursuit of excellence. She has received awards for her work in film music plus she donates to worthwhile charitable organizations. Every year, Queen Latifah serves as co-chairman for the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, Inc. (In honor of her late brother who was killed in a motorcycle accident) to provide scholarships to students who excel scholastically, but are limited in financial resources. Queen Latifah has also written a book on self-esteem entitled Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman. In honor of this Queen, let’s all inspire to make a positive difference in this world. #BlackHistoryMonth
Four Guys (Left to Right) Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Jarobi wore hip Afrocentric clothes and rhymed to jazz infused beats, formed a phenomenal hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest in 1985. QUEST was the original name of the group but was later given the prefix A Tribe Called by their high school friends.
ATCQ formed a crew with House music group Jungle Brothers and hip-hop group De La Soul, called The Native Tongues. Because of their live energy during performances, they created a buzz in the city of Brooklyn, New York which led them to get signed with Jive Records in 1989. This began the journey of a rap group prodigy for the 1990’s decade.
A Tribe Called Quest made it popular to talk about social issues that could be related to young African Americans such as sex, politics, relationships, stealing your parents car to joy ride and also the use of the N word. while still having fun encouraging positivity through it all. Unlike other hip-hop groups at the time ATCQ was in their own lane. They greeted jazz with bass-heavy rhythmic vibes and eclectic sampling. They have several memorable songs including Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It and (above) I Left my Wallet in El Segundo. When you listen to ATCQ music what message do you get from the song? How does the beat make you feel?
At this current time, A Tribe Called Quest is still performing at some events, making appearances with their old school friend’s on stage (Busta Rhymes, De La Soul) and new school artist as well. On November 13, 2015 they released a special 25th anniversary edition collection of the group’s classic debut album People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm.
The album is a cool artsy looking trunk filled with remastered original tapes re-released with exclusive new remixes by a few of today’s biggest hip-hop artists who have credited A Tribe Called Quest as a major creative influence. Unfortunately it has sold out everywhere at this point so you may have to borrow a friends. Until then they are on social media so follow them below. It’s the Tribe Yall! Real Live Yall!