‘Not Even Know Your Name . . .’

As I sat at the computer the other day, iTunes kept me company, offering familiarity and comfort, mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then – from 1970, a year smack in the middle of that period – came “The Road” by Chicago, a track from the group’s second album, the silver one.

And, not for the first time, I pondered the lyrics and wondered how the narrator – not necessarily the song’s composer, Terry Kath or its singer, Peter Cetera, but the imagined narrator – would feel about his words fifty-some years after the fact:

If you’d like to get together
Then come right over to me
Oh, we can do anything
That you’d like to do

If you’d like to give your love
Then please, just feel free
Because I may be gone tomorrow
And not even know your name, yeah

Now please don’t misunderstand my loneliness
Let’s never, ever talk of time
For our friends may fade away
And our hopes will say goodnight
And our friendship would be lost
It would be such a waste of life
So, let’s just, let’s have a good thing, girl
And let’s not worry
Let’s do everything we want
And let’s not cry.
When it’s over
When I leave, our thing won’t die

If you really understand
Then come right over to me
Oh, we can play together for a while
And still be free, yeah!

The callowness of the young, right? Well, Kath and the other members of Chicago were young when the track came out. Kath was twenty-four, just to check one. And the sentiments of the song were very much of its time, especially for a young man on the road with a band. (The song is kind of the flip side of “Superstar,” the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett tune.)

And I remember sorting the lyrics out when I got the Chicago album at the age of sixteen and kind of thinking (perhaps ahead of my time and my peers): “That might be a cool way to live, with a lot of girls around, maybe, but you know, when you do get to wherever home is, there’s probably no one there, and maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea, not that I’ll ever have the chance to know . . .”

And with that train of thought sometime in 1970 went the rather ludicrous idea of my ever being a rock ’n’ roll god, and from then on, I just bobbed my head to the music and – in the last few decades – have wondered how long it took in the rock ’n’ roll world for those sentiments to fade away or if they even have.

Ah, well. It’s just an old song, an artifact of its time, and it pops up once in a while – six times this year – and usually I let it roll by as I read news or putter on Facebook.

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