In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every solitary #1 solitary in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, beginning with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and also working my method up right into the present.
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The year prior to Chicago very first hit #1, the band already had enough huge songs the they exit a greatest-hits album. Chicago to be the type of band who don’t exactly need the pop charts. They did fine on the pop charts — 10 top-10 singles before they scored that very first #1. However they more or less existed together their very own unit, one that can ignore pop-music trends and also still sell huge numbers the albums to the mysterious American record-buying public. That first #1 solitary was almost an accident. Lock would’ve to be fine there is no it.
Chicago had a context as soon as they very first started. The team came together in the city of Chicago in 1967, calling themselves the big Thing and also playing top-40 consist of in neighborhood nightclubs. Eventually, their college producer James william Guercio convinced them to relocate out to Los Angeles, where he became their manager and also producer. The group — now renamed the Chicago Transit government — ended up being the home band at the Whiskey A walk Go and also attracted enough record-label attention that Columbia Records, the brand that signed them, permit them release a double album as their debut.
That Chicago Transit government debut came out in 1969, and also a entirety lot much more albums, most of castle doubles, followed. They adjusted their name to just plain Chicago a year later. (Place-name bands, for whatever reason, were huge in the ’70s: America, Kansas, Boston.) early on on, Chicago were component of a tide of bands — like electric Flag and also fellow Guercio partners Blood, Sweat & Tears — that played diffuse and also vaguely jazz-inflected rock. Chicago didn’t improvise, and their documents were largely sterile lift music, yet they had actually a most horns and plainly weren’t funk, so the jazz label stuck.
I go not thrive up v Chicago records in the house, and also I am no a fan, for this reason there’s a chance I’m getting this whole phenomenon every wrong. Yet as far as I have the right to tell, the very nice of those Chicago documents was something favor this: Those documents were what we’d speak to lifestyle music today. If you were throwing a dinner party and also wanted to placed on some music that was unobtrusive but also nebulously sophisticated, you can reach for among those bigass Chicago twin albums. They’d play because that long sufficient that you wouldn’t have to worry around what music was on, and also you might go around your life. We have actually chill-vibes playlists that offer the same utilitarian requirements today.
Before “If You leave Me Now,” Chicago didn’t have a clean frontman. The various members the the tape all wrote songs, and also most of castle sang, too. 1972’s “Saturday In The Park,” the band’s highest-charting single to the point, usually summed up the type of thing they did. It’s a track that manages to it is in both upbeat and also mellow, folding in a slim patina the Latin influence and also a gritty-ish vocal from pianist and also songwriter Robert Lamm around spending a satisfied afternoon in a park. “Saturday In The Park” has a the majority of tempo switch-ups and also tricky backup harmonies; the musicians in Chicago were clearly eager to show off your chops. Yet it likewise breezes by without leaving much of an impression. (“Saturday In The Park” peaked at #3. It’s a 5.)
“If You leave Me Now,” on the various other hand, is memorable, though that doesn’t necessarily make it good. Bassist and singer Peter Cetera composed the song, and it’s a breezy ballad around attempting to stave off a breakup: “How might we end it every this way/ when tomorrow comes and we’ll both regret/ The things we stated today?” Cetera sings the tune in a high, feathery tenor, and there’s not really a chorus; the whole thing is basically one prolonged soft-focus hook. There space horns ~ above the song, yet they’re hidden in the mix, and the miscellaneous Chicago males don’t really get too many chances to display off.
Cetera mirrors off, though. That sings the hell the end of the song, hitting inverted-eyebrow blue-eyed-soul sincerity notes almost everywhere the places. His finest hook on the song is wordless; it’s a rise “ooh-ooh-ooh” moan-sob. Underneath him, the music — a sluggish horn riff, part acoustic-guitar flourishes, a sad-bastard string ar — blurs right into an indistinct soft drone, a pond of feelings.
Cetera selling the wounded woe of the song’s sentiment, however he never finds room because that urgency or need. The track is soft and gooey sufficient that that never even sounds prefer a possible-breakup song. Instead, it come off together a simple love song, a prom slow-dance type of thing. It most likely served that role just well in the day. Indeed, “If You leave Me Now” resonated in ways that no various other Chicago track has ever before done; the is, because that instance, Chicago’s single UK #1.
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The various other members that Chicago all appeared to be pretty pissed off the the song did and also it did. Over the years, a bunch the them have made passive-aggressive statements about the track, and about how Columbia automatically demanded a totality lot much more ballads after ~ its success. Guitarist terrycloth Kath, in particular, to be evidently not too happy that producer Guercio played guitar on the song; Kath would always refuse to play the song during Chicago shows. Yet that one large ballad begat more huge ballads — many of them from Peter Cetera. Chicago retained making hits, and we will view them in this column again.
BONUS BEATS: “If You leaving Me Now” pops increase a couple of times during David O. Russell’s 1999 war movie Three Kings, including in a scene wherein Ice Cube and Spike Jonze argue over whether they should be listening come “If You leave Me Now.” right here it is: