Hard to Say I'm Sorry

Album: Chicago 16 (1982)
Charted: 4 1


  • This song marked a resurgence for Chicago, who had been dropped from their longtime label, Columbia Records, and picked up by the Full Moon label, distributed by Warner Bros.

    "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" was their first single on Full Moon, providing an instant return for the label when the song went to #1 in America and even became a rare UK hit for Chicago, reaching #4 (it also went to #1 on the US Adult Contemporary chart).

    To find this hit sound, the band turned to the same formula that brewed up their first #1 hit, "If You Leave Me Now": A ballad with lead vocals by Peter Cetera.

    Chicago was one of the first rock bands of the '60s and '70s to take on a softer, more keyboard-driven sound in the '80s, downplaying their famous horn section. They were followed by Yes ("Owner Of A Lonely Heart"), Van Halen ("Jump") and Heart ("These Dreams") onto the charts with this new sound.
  • Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera wrote this with David Foster, who also played piano on the track. The song finds Cetera trying desperately to hold on to a relationship that has fizzled out, promising to make up for his indiscretions and playing the "we've been through so much" card. Foster worked on a similarly themed song for Earth, Wind & Fire a few years earlier in "After The Love Has Gone ."
  • Steve Lukather (guitar), David Paich (synthesizer) and Steve Porcaro (synthesizer), all played on this track. These guys were top studio musicians as well as members of Toto. Bringing them in caused plenty of friction in the band, which didn't like the idea of other musicians playing their parts. But David Foster knew exactly what he wanted, and was willing to bring in the guys who could achieve it.

    Bill Champlin, who joined the band in 1981 and suggested they use Foster, explained in a Songfacts interview: "Foster would just as soon call the A players and bring them in, and I really don't blame him. Real major players that can get this stuff for you in a minute. They really eyeball with the producer once and give it to him on take one."
  • A version customized for the 1982 Daryl Hannah movie Summer Lovers plays at the conclusion of the film. Chicago completed the song while the movie was being made, and pitched it to the filmmakers, who incorporated it into the movie. The song was included on the soundtrack, which also included "Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode and two songs by Tina Turner. Despite its musical pedigree, the film was a critical and commercial failure.
  • Typical of a David Foster composition, there is lots of variation in this track. The song really has two different choruses: the "hold me now" parts and the "after all that we've been through" sections. The verses take up very little of the song, which leaves plenty to the imagination ("Why does she need time away?").

    Around 2:45, the song builds, with Cetera's third repetition of the "after all that we've been through" part, which is followed by a brief guitar solo that is answered by a quick keyboard riff. It ends with Cetera singing a line that comes out of nowhere: "You're gonna be the lucky one," leaving even more to the imagination.
  • The string section was arranged by Jeremy Lubbock, who would later win a Grammy for his arrangement on Chicago's "Hard Habit To Break." He also co-wrote the song "The Best Of Me," which was a minor hit for David Foster & Olivia Newton-John in 1986.
  • The single version of this song runs 3:48, but the album version has another section called "Get Away," which brings in the Chicago horn section. This full version is what the band usually play in concert.
  • The R&B group AZ Yet recorded a new version of this song in 1997, taking it to #8 in the US. This version was produced by David Foster and Babyface, and featured vocals from Peter Cetera. The song is officially credited to "Az Yet with Peter Cetera."

Comments: 16

  • Niels from The NetherlandsRecently some of my country did a worthy rendition (too short and talked through unfortunately) at this Dutch vocal talent show: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_W5SP_cBPII
  • Markantney from BiloxiMar 2020,
    Lou, Many feel the same about Mike McDonald and claiming he "Ruined" the Doobies:):). I like both Chicagos but like Cetera's era more, same with the Doobies (McDoobies are a tad better to me:)). Though I like the original Van Halen way more with Roth but the others are OK.
  • Lou from PennaI can't believe that someone could blame PETER Cetera for ruining Chicago even after he left , they didn't have to play all those sappy songs that everyone loved, they didn't mind when it was filling their pockets with all that money,times were changing and so was the music, mostly all the bands started playing ballads, PETER Cetera is A very talented musician and no one could could ever come close to his distinctive voice!
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenI was sorry when the group began "downplaying" its horn section, as I was when ELO dumped its violin player.
  • Michael from Alabama@Mus1cman Yes! It was THE summer ballad of 1982. I graduated from high school nine days after this song was released and started college five days before it hit #1. The first time I heard it was in the employee cafeteria at Opryland USA, called the "Great Escape". We got the deformed popsicles, hot dogs, and excess hamburgers from all over the park on the cheap in there with some of the coolest air-conditioning in the place while listening to KDF (who ALWAYS seemed to play the full cut including "Get Away") on our breaks.

    WKDF in the mid-1980s was the best formatted rock station I've heard in my entire life. I did a LOT of travelling in the 1990s and early naughts. The only other one that came remotely close was in Raleigh-Durham, NC during the mid-to-late 1990s. It was a virtual clone of mid-80s KDF in Nashville. An FM Album Oriented Rock station was #1 in "The Home of Country Music" every single month for almost the entire decade of the 1980s. Johnny Cash once said in an interview that it was what he listened to while driving his son John Carter to school in the mornings. If it was not too sappy for KDF, that was good enough for me.
  • Dave from Wheaton, IlYep, Get Away, needed to be on the radio single, in the 1st place!
  • Mus1cman from Barrow, Ak"Terry Kath must have rolled over in his grave when he heard the garbage his band mates made after his untimely death."

    Not a bad point but one must remember that he WAS around for "If You Leave Me Now" and such other 'schmaltz' that was going on with the band even before that. Of course very-early, just-out-the-gate Chicago is their respected best along with Kath being the band's most-respected member, the one who gave Chicago their early 'edge' before Cetera either by his own doing or AOR or a little of both monopolized things (I believe Jimi Hendrix himself, before he died, acknowledged Kath's guitar playing and went as far as to say that Terry was better than he was). Just the same, songs such as 'If You Leave Me Now', their 'Hot Streets' offerings (first album w/out Kath) such as 'Alive Again' and 'No Tell Lover' along with 'Hard For Me to Say I'm Sorry' a few years later were really not too bad at all ('Hard Habit to Break', 'You're the Inspriation' and post-Cetera 'Will You Still Love Me' and 'Look Away'...now that's when it REALLY got out of hand). 'Sorry' was indeed a 'summer' song and released as a single at the perfect time in 1982, just before the summer began; and finally peaking on the charts as the summer was officially ending. The entire song embodies the spirit of an entire summer giving you the feel of the summer's beginning at the SONG's beginning and giving you that sad feeling of another summer now gone by the time we hear "you're gonna be the lucky one" with that 'sad' feeling dissolving ONLY if the DJ could POSSIBLY play 'Get Away' which hardly EVER happened when the song was out. A shame, but a decent track nonetheless.
  • Art from Mpls, MnI stopped following Chicago after Chicago III came out because it was such a letdown after their first 2 albums though it wasn't that bad really. After that all i knew of them was their incredibly sappy singles on which cetra sang lead on most of them. This kind of music is for 12 year olds. At Billy Champlins website he won't even discuss his time with chicago as if he's ashamed to have been associated with them. I think the only reason he joined the band was because he needed the money since his Sons of Champlin albums , while good, were very unsuccessful commercially. I doubt if anyone who listened to Chicago only after 1978 even knew who the legendary Terry Kath was which is a shame. I never did care for Cetra's voice much but he was ok doing backups when either Kath or Lamb sang and as long as he only sang lead on 2 songs per album it was bearable. Terry Kath must have rolled over in his grave when he heard the garbage his band mates made after his untimely death. These guys sold out close almost as much as elton john and rod stewart did. It's really a shame because these guys were pretty good musicians as their earliest work proves.
  • Aimee from Plant City, FlDavid Foster is an amazingly talented man. He wrote some of the best songs ever made.
  • Erin from Fargo, NdAt the 2009 "David Foster and Friends" concert, Clay Aiken sang a "Peter Cetera Medley" that contained this song, "You're the Inspiration," and "Glory of Love".
  • Adrian from Johor Bahru, MalaysiaChicago's songs topping the charts seem to follow a 6 year pattern. Their first in 1976, If You Leave Me Now was followed by Hard To Say I'm Sorry six years later in 1982 . Then six years later they topped the charts again in 1988 with the Diane Warren composed track, Look Away. It was their first post- Cetera number one or their first number one hit minus Peter Cetera.
  • Rick from London, OnKevin, I personally blame everything on David Foster! He is at the nucleus of all things shmaltz and i'm pretty sure he ruined the whole 1980's.
  • John from Grand Island, NyIt should be a crime to play this song without the GET AWAY ending. I can't stand it when pop stations cut the song right before the great ending. Still one of the best songs of the 80's. Do I like the 60's-70's Chicago better? Absolutely, but this is one great song especially the ending.
  • Don from Marietta, GaThis ballad bozo, as Kevin, in the preceding comment, calls Cetera, cowrote a song lasting 2 weeks, beginning Sept. 11, 2002, @ #1 on the Billboard chart. Pretty good for a "bozo". I'd gladly be a bozo if I could do that. Esp. that upbeat ending, the high paced Get Away. Some FM stations wouldn't play both, but they fit together so well and it was unique. Chicago would often make this their final encore number in concert, and it was a great crowd pleaser.

    A URL that tells more about the song:

  • Henry from Pawtucket, RiBill Champlin of Chicago co-wrote After the Love Was Gone.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaWhat dreck. Peter Cetera ruined Chicago when he began hogging the spotlight and numbing everyone in to submission with this radio drivel. Yuck. Even when he left the band later, it was too late. The formula had been established and the band carried on with this soulless slop. I find it interesting that Cetera's transofmration from rock/jazz bassist to ballad bozo came with a similar physical transformation: Look at the old pictures and he is kind of beefy and muscular. Once he adopted the soft style, he grew thin and fragile looking. He went wimp, both physically and musically.
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