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            Peter Cetera

            Biografie

            Noted vocalist and bassist Peter Paul Cetera was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 13, 1944. His initial foray into music was the accordion, but he soon made his way to electric bass (and, occasionally, guitar). Cetera's family was Polish in origin, and Peter grew up Catholic.

            As a youngster, Cetera made the rounds in local bands before landing a gig with The Exceptions. In December of 1967, The Big Thing (later Chicago) and the Exceptions were playing the same place when Cetera approached the former, saying he liked what they were doing. Two weeks later, he'd switched bands.

            Cetera's addition benefited Chicago in many ways. First, his tenor voice complimented the baritones of guitarist Terry Kath and keyboardist Robert Lamm. Second - and most important at the time - his bass playing simply rocked. Together with Kath and drummer 'Danny Seraphine', Cetera made the rhythm section cook. Although not especially noted as a bass player now, at the time, Cetera set the standard. Early Chicago recordings - such as "Listen" and "Poem 58" - benefit immensely from Cetera's creative lines.

            But it's as a singer that Cetera is especially noted, and there's no doubt that the man can sing. "Questions 67 and 68," "25 or 6 to 4," "Just You and Me," and "Call On Me" all testify to his ability to sing the spots off a tune. His unique vocal phrasing was the result of reconstructive surgery following a fight he got into at a baseball game in 1970. Eventually, Cetera became known as the voice of Chicago.

            Cetera was the last of the original Chicago members to join, and it's tempting to say that he always felt a bit like an outsider (says trombonist James Pankow, "Peter hated the horns"). According to Cetera, his early attempts at songwriting weren't well received by others in the band (it must be said these efforts are hit and miss), and by "Chicago VII" (which was supposed to be all jazz), his frustration was showing. When producer James William Guercio agreed that the "VII" sessions weren't going well, Cetera offered his compositions "Happy Man" and "Wishing You Were Here" - both winners, and both huge hits. Saying he was always the frustrated rocker in the group, Cetera hit home with the almost metal "Hideaway" on "Chicago VIII," a truly inspired bit of writing - tellingly, without horns.

            Cetera, Guercio, and Kath recorded "If You Leave Me Now" after the others had finished their work on the "Chicago X" sessions, and when it hit, it went straight to #1 - the first Chicago single to do so. He scored again on "Chicago XI" with "Baby, What A Big Surprise," even though it was obvious that his contributions on that session were limited (he wrote and sang only that one tune). It was at this time that the group split with Guercio, and that - according to Cetera - both he and Kath were sick of what Chicago was doing. "Everything that can go on with a band was going on with us," Cetera has said. When Kath accidentally shot himself early in 1978, Cetera thought the band would end naturally. Doc Severinson talked them out of it. Cetera's bloated and disheveled appearance at this time may be indicative of his feelings about soldiering on.

            But Cetera soon became the focal point. He was all over the increasingly low selling albums, sometimes penning and singing out-and-out winners ("Little Miss Lovin'," "Loser With A Broken Heart"), sometimes penning and singing sappy drivel ("Song for You"). When Columbia Records dropped Chicago, Cetera jumped on the opportunity to do solo work. His 1981 album "Peter Cetera" featured his great rocker, "Livin' In the Limelight."

            Cetera became the Man in 1982. The "Chicago 16" sessions added keyboardist-guitarist-vocalist Bill Champlin and producer David Foster, but Cetera made the most of the opportunity, penning a funked-up rocker ("Bad Advice"), and the monster hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." 1984's "Chicago 17" cemented Cetera's position as he racked up the hits "You're the Inspiration," "Stay the Night," "Hard Habit to Break," and "Along Comes a Women." The fine work others contributed was usurped by Cetera's popularity, and the break up was inevitable.

            According to Champlin, Cetera had been thinking about leaving for years: "He was ready." He'd quit smoking and drugs, lost weight, and began paying attention to his looks. Cetera says that he wanted to do a Phil Collins/Genesis-type deal, and the others wouldn't have it; others, like James Pankow, say Cetera wanted 50% of the cut, and top-billing ("Peter Cetera and Chicago"), and they wouldn't have it. Ultimately, according to keyboardist Robert Lamm, Cetera quit, saying, "I never really dug the music that much anyway." It was July of 1985.

            As if in answer, Cetera immediately scored a #1 hit with "Glory of Love" - which had horns! He followed up with chart busters like "After All", (with Cher) "One Good Woman", "Feels Like Heaven" (with Chaka Khan), and has recently re-recorded some of his Chicago hits and a Christmas album.

            Described as quiet and private, the blond Cetera has been married at least twice. His hair cut in a page-boy early in his career (with the occasional beard), he has stayed slim and GQ recently. Now out of Chicago longer than he was in, he dislikes discussing his years in the group, saying, "It's like talking about your ex-wife." He has turned down chances to re-unite with Chicago over the years, and famously refused to allow VH1 to use any of his songs in the "Behind the Music" episode about Chicago. He has several children, has pretty much quit playing bass, and has only started touring again recently after a long, self-imposed exile. He is, however, accessible on his website, where he answers questions and chats with fans with a great deal of humor and candor.

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