Chicago already fans of Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' before Grammy collaboration
This Dec. 13, 2013 file photo shows Robin Thicke performing at Z100’s Jingle Ball 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP / Evan Agostini)
Published Friday, January 24, 2014 5:17PM EST
LOS ANGELES -- The Grammy Awards love to play oddball musical matchmaker, but the union of veteran soft-rock hit-makers Chicago and libidinous crooner Robin Thicke seemed uncommonly smooth during rehearsals at the Staples Center Friday.
Perhaps that's because the long-running band members were already fans of Thicke's sleazy summer smash "Blurred Lines" before they began collaborating.
"I just came back from Hawaii and it's on the radio every five minutes," said founding frontman Robert Lamm, huddled next to his bandmates after practising the performance for an hour.
"The first time I heard that on the radio, I grooved," chimed in co-founding trumpeter Lee Loughnane. "It's up for record of the year and it should be."
While it is a big year for Thicke -- the 36-year-old, who holds Canadian citizenship, has three nominations -- it's also a special Grammys for Chicago.
That's because the band behind "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" and "If You Leave Me Now" will see its 1969 debut (released when they still went by Chicago Transit Authority) ushered into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Considering the group only ever won one trophy -- in 1976 for best pop vocal performance -- and wasn't able to accept the award in person, the Hall of Fame distinction is substantial.
"That's a tremendous honour. The first album. Here we are, the four of us still together," said saxophonist Walter Parazaider.
During their rehearsal Friday, the band was more than happy to cede some authority to an exacting Thicke, who seemed to know precisely what he wanted out of the performance.
Dressed all in black, the collar of his leather blazer popped, Thicke sang on three Chicago tunes -- "Beginnings," "Saturday in the Park" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" -- while plunked for a time at a piano, before he took centre stage to finish with "Blurred Lines" while the band's famous horn section clustered behind him. The climactic ending did take a few run-throughs to get right.
"That was my fault," Thicke said with a grin after flubbing the first take. "We'll get the timing."
A few tries later, he was emphatically pleased with what they managed.
"There we go!" he hollered, before embracing the band.
Afterward the band praised Thicke for taking such a keen interest in the performance.
"Robin's been in this business a long time as well, 20-25 years, so to have this kind of success is really cool for him," said trombonist James Pankow.
On Feb. 21, Chicago will launch a month-long tour across Canada in Summerside, P.E.I. ("Catching a moon tan," joked Parazaider, before Loughnane added: "Hopefully our trucks won't get stuck in snow.")
They mused Friday about inviting a "new star on the horizon" like Thicke to perform some shows with them. While they know Thicke has been around for a while, it makes sense that the rock vets would still think of him as an "amazing young talent" -- after all, they're friendly with his father, ubiquitous actor Alan Thicke.
"He's actually a good friend of David Foster," said Parazaider, whose band collaborated with the Canuck producer on numerous occasions.
"When we did those records with David, he was always hanging out in the studio."