Competitions designed to stimulate citizens’ pride falter after allegations of political conspiracy. But hey, this is Chicago.
Our resident pop singer Jeffrey Bear describes a rocky search around town to find the official song on Ask Jeffrey this week.
When Mayor Jane Byrne took office, she composed the songs for the city-sponsored “Anthem” competition. Last year, I created a new arrangement and intake to empower the citizens of Chicago during a pandemic. Tell us about the original competition and the search for “Chicago National Anthem”.
– – MJ Burgart, Edge Water
All of this happened when our interrogator sent MJ Bergart the first re-recorded track he wrote for the National Anthem Contest, a short-lived gem in Chicago history that happened in the early 1980s. It started a.
The history of the national anthem competition begins in Aldo, District 36 in 1982. Louis Farina stood on the podium at an official lunch in the city. Since there was no national anthem in the city, the chosen walk-up music was staged by Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town” and set a kind of nightclub tone. Embarrassed, Farina decided that the city needed something “more worthy”.
He was so excited about it that he gave the city council a resolution to open an official search, backed by then-Mayor Jane Byrne.
After Byrne took over the competition, she formed a search committee of 20 local composers, musicians, television personalities, and philanthropists, and raised $ 5,000 from voting funds. The rules were simple. Write a song that embodies the history of Chicago. The winner will appear in front of the city council and will immortalize the national anthem at city lunches and events over the next few years.
The city received an overwhelming response. After the deadline was extended to June 1983, the commission received more than 2,000 entries, from polka to mariachi to blues songs. Of course there was also a considerable range of quality.
“About a third of it is of excellent studio quality,” said the Associated Press as quoting contest coordinator Anne Rashford. “But some can’t tell if people were drinking or just couldn’t sing clearly.”
Finally, in July 1983, the jury nominated Jeff Jacobs, a freelance musician from Evanston, as the winner of the “Song of Chicago Alive” entry. After the story was published, Jacobs contacted WTTW News and posted a recording of the song. You can hear it here:
The song ends on the next line. “Hold with the power of the old water tower / through hardship and victory. Big as your skyline of pride and power / Chicago is my hometown. “
But that wasn’t the end of the story. After all, this is Chicago, and even an enjoyable song contest seems entirely political.
One challenge was Ald, the first sponsor of all. Louis Farina – convicted of extortion in 1983 and spent 13 months in prison.
More importantly, Jane Byrne lost re-election to Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, that same year. The competition shifted to his administration, and Washington was not a fan of the winning song at the time, according to newspaper reports. After hearing it twice, he said the song was abandoned with the words “I’m not impressed”.
A mayor spokesman told the New York Times that Washington wanted a song that captures Chicago’s history and diversity. In particular, he said he would like to hear a reference to Chicago’s first non-native settlers and colored Jum Baptist Point Dusable.
Contest winner Jeff Jacobs speculated, however, that the decision was politically motivated. One of the defenders of the national anthem was none other than Aldo. Edberg, one of the masterminds of the council wars, who fought 29 councilors against the entire Washington agenda.
After that, most of the competition judges resigned in protest, but Jacobs’ song was played on western radio to California. And Jacobs says that after more than a year of “fighting with the city,” he was awarded a prize of $ 5,000.
But this wasn’t the first or last search for Chicago’s national anthem.
In 1921, The Herald and Examiner newspaper held a competition to find city songs. The $ 2,000 prize was won by the so-called “Hail Chicago”, but it never really worked.
And in 1985 the Chicago Tourism Board sponsored its own competition. The winner, entitled “Calling Me Home, Chicago” by Paul David Wilson, received a lot of radio plays as a single and was featured in the only city commercial with Rock Hudson.
Then there were a few other attempts to establish the song but it almost went nowhere. But if the city decides to check again, they’ll likely call our interrogator, MJ. If you’d like to hear the questioner’s post for yourself, please find it below.
Note: Earlier versions of this story misrepresented the prize money awarded to Jeff Jacobs. The story has been fixed.
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