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If You Leave Me Now by Chicago

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">Album: Chicago XReleased: 1976Charted:
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  • Chicago's bass player Peter Cetera wrote this and sang lead. Cetera specialized in ballads, adding variety to the band's sound which featured many more rock-oriented songs, often written by Terry Kath or Robert Lamm.

    Cetera's ballads quickly became the band's biggest hits, with "If You Leave Me Now" their most successful song to that point, topping the charts in the US and UK. Of course, their record company wanted more of where that came from and kept pushing the Cetera songs - the big hit from their next album was his tune "Baby What a Big Surprise." The group found a new audience and became much more successful, but they also got earmarked as a soft rock group, which took the focus away from their grittier, horn-heavy songs. This became a point of contention for Chicago's famed section, especially trombone player James Pankow, who recalls constant battles to get the horns higher in the mix from that point forward.

    When Cetera left Chicago in 1985, his hits didn't stop: In 1986, "Glory Of Love" went to #1 US and his duet with Amy Grant, "The Next Time I Fall," made it to #4.
  • Lyrically, this is a surprisingly simple song, but it does have an unusual structure. Depending on how you look at it, there's either no chorus, or it's all chorus. The song opens with the title line, which is also the hook:
    If you leave me now, you'll take away the biggest part of me

    The next line gives Peter Cetera a chance to show off his vocal range, and makes it clear that he is full-on pleading:
    Ooooh no, baby please don't go

    The title then returns, but with another consequence:
    If you leave me now, you'll take away the very heart of me

    The rest of the song is Cetera making his case for why the girl shouldn't leave, in very histrionic fashion. He wrote the words around the melody, which he composed first. Cetera is very good at composing songs that push emotional extremes, and these songs are well suited to his voice, which can reach the notes to accentuate these feelings.
  • Considering their longevity and success, it's surprising how Chicago has been spurned by both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammys. The band's only Grammy award came for this song, when it won for Best Pop Vocal Performance By a Duo, Group or Chorus.

    The song also won the award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), which went to James William Guercio and Jimmie Haskell.
  • This was the first Chicago single to feature an acoustic guitar lead. It was played by the band's manager, James William Guercio, who produced the track. Guercio is an accomplished musician who before working on this song had toured with The Beach Boys as a bass player. On "If You Leave Me Now," he played the acoustic guitar part as a demo, figuring their regular guitarist, Terry Kath, would put down the proper track when he was available. The band thought Guercio's part sounded great, so they left it on the record.
  • In the UK, this was Chicago's only #1 hit. In Britain, the group had nowhere near the success they had in America. They wouldn't make the Top 40 on the UK chart again until 1982 with "Hard to Say I'm Sorry."
  • Jimmie Haskell did the string arrangement on this song along with producer James William Guercio. Haskell had done a lot of work scoring films, and was able to bring a cinematic quality to the sound.
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Comments: 25

This is my favorite sad song of all time! A combination of well written lyrics, a beautiful musical arrangement, and Peter Cetera's magical voice make this timeless song unforgettable. Though I can see where hard core Chicago fans may moan about the reduced emphasis of the horns that persisted through the 1980's, one factor behind this and other subsequent successes of the band (mostly additional Peter Cetera ballads) was the fans changing musical tastes. While the jazz fusion sound worked incredibly well in the early and mid 1970's, it may not have worked as well in later years with respect to the pop charts. Regardless, I practically live for these sensitive, heartfelt songs, and few work as well as this where I'm concerned. I have probably sung this song to myself more frequently than any other song in history.David - Orlando, Fl
The ONLY Chicago song which STANDS OUT from the rest !Adrian - Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Idk why but lately I have been playing the sadder Chicago songs on my Ipod. This is one of 'em. Guess I am just an emotional trainwreck sometime...well most of the time ):Elliott - Franklin, Tn
I will always love this song and Peter Cetera's voice.Tanya - La Verne, Ca
This song remind me of my ex-neighbours whenever they quarrelled.Adrian - Johor Bahru, Malaysia
This was their 22nd charted record and 1st No. 1...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Hahahaha :) it's more like " I just got to have your love and care", isn't it? Hope it helps. Love this song anyway.Troip - Wegierska Gorka, Poland
I wonder what was meant by "oooh mama I just got to have your lovin hair" towards the fading part of the song.Adrian - Johor Bahru, Malaysia
To Markus: Stockholm, Sweden : are you deaf? Hard To Say I'm Sorry is not close to the same class as other Chicago songs such as You're The Inspiration, Look Away, 25 or 6 to 4, and Does Anybody Really Know Waht Time It Is?!Joe - Chicago, Il
It was a throw in towards the end of producing Chicago X.Henry - Pawtucket, Ri
I prefer Butters' version of this song.Jeff - Austin, Tx
i can remember going to ridley north and slow dancing to this when i was a kid.. .. what a well produced song.. it had so much modern day soul...
tom lesko american seance
Tommy - Ridley, Pa
their best songs came '82 and '84... "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" and "You're The Inspiration"... then of course "If You Leave Me Now" is also in the same class but hey, I mean they have made better songs since thenMarkus - Stockholm, Sweden
I do think that later dChicago music isn't as good, but that had plenty of good songs in the 70's. I like this one but it isn't my favorite of theirs. It's nothing to be upset about. Calm down Andrew!Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Hey Andrew ??????? you need a good orgasm !!!!!

just take it easy man, take it eaaaaaaaaaaasy
Pete - Nowra, Australia
Butters Stotch's favourite song!Fiona - Napier, New Zealand
i preferred it when the cherry sang itPapa Burgundy - Bridlington, England
As I recall, Peter wrote this song after spending time with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys fame, hence the layered vocals and cascading strings.. and the number one hitAlex - London, England
Peter Cetera's Music is The Greatest... PETER CETERA ALL THE WAY!!!Paul - Arlington, Tx
The truth always hurts boys!Andrew - Toronto
Peter Cetera wrote this song about his faltering marriage. This was a plea to his wife at the time to stay. It didn't work as she promptly left him. That's a fact.Paul - Peterborough, England
Just because you said that, Andrew, this song really is better than you!George - Fort Worth, Tx
This Song Is Better Than YOU!!!Paul Serrato - Arlington, Tx
This was the beginning of the end for this once great and innovative band after this Chicago became a vehicle for Peter Cetera to showcase his middle of the road pap and launch his solo career much like Genesis and Phil Collins but with less success.Andrew - Toronto
Jim Guercio, the band's producer for their first 10 albums, played the acoustic guitar solo.Charles - Charlotte, Nc