Sometimes it gets overlooked as a great city as we tend to focus our energies on considering the coasts and leave the interior as a great blur in our minds. But a great city it is, indeed, and its location in the Midwest enhances its riches. It’s real. Unpretentious. Sitting as it does right in the center of the country, it is in some respects, the most American of cities.
It ties east to west and carries our industrial tradition in its very architecture. After the great fire of 1871, Chicago didn’t just rebuild, it gave us the first skyscraper. You get the sense that everyone in Chicago is working. Hard. Sprawling under its L tracks are a kaleidoscope of images and recollections: terrific parks, Lollapalooza, Al Capone, baseball, politics, President Obama, a rich fabric of diverse and disparate neighborhoods, ethnic foods, the Art Institute with “American Gothic” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” inside, Second City, theater, Lake Michigan, jazz clubs, speakeasies, so many great restaurants, hot dog vendors, Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, Ira Glass doing This American Life over at WBEZ’s studios, the University of Chicago and its storied press, and on and on. After being raised from the age of three on the South Side, the great scribbler Nelson Algren would go on to write about the city, “Once you’ve become a part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”
These tracks tell some of Chicago’s many tales, evoke some of its many stories, each song as real as the city itself.
“Sweet Home Chicago”
Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings