Make Me Smile

Album: Chicago II (1970)
Charted: 9
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  • This song was written by James Pankow, a founding member of Chicago whose primary instrument is the trombone. What made him smile was the thought of a beautiful relationship. In a Songfacts interview with Pankow, he explained: "Relationships, if they're good, put a big smile on our faces. Love songs have always been a powerful ingredient in the song's process - the songwriting process has often taken writers to that place."
  • This is the first section from the 13-minute musical suite "Ballet for a Girl from Buchannon" on the group's second album ("Colour My World" is also part of this suite). Without the band's knowledge, their record company excerpted the "Make Me Smile" section and pushed it to AM radio stations, which had thus far ignored the band. The band had mixed emotions upon hearing their musical masterpiece chopped down for radio play, but were thrilled when the song became their first hit.

    Having learned the alchemy for turning Chicago songs into hits, the record company went back to the group's first album and edited down three more songs, which they released as singles: "Questions 67 And 68," "Beginnings," and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Charles - Charlotte, NC
  • Chicago's original guitar player/vocalist Terry Kath sang lead on this track. After Kath died in 1978, other members of the band, including Bill Champlin and Robert Lamm, would handle the vocals when they performed the song live.
  • The first time James Pankow heard this song on the radio was when he flipped on the mighty Los Angeles radio station KHJ-AM in his car and the song came on. He had no idea the record company had packaged it as a single.

Comments: 32

  • Sean from ChicagoAlways wondered why the sound quality is so...bad, for lack of a better descriptor. One could argue it was an early song, but then why does the rest of the album -- and the previous one -- sound so much better?
  • Vadertime from FloridaLove this song. It gets better each time I hear it. Terry Kath, such a sad tragedy, but he left us many great songs. Rock on.
  • Yeppers The first line is the sound like a pedophile ...children play in the park they don’t know I’m alone in the dark feeling low
  • Kevin from Virginia Terry Kath made them and I agree with Jules from Orgegon, once he ford they became sappy, unlistenable
  • Jules from OregonOne of the greatest bands to emerge from the 60s/70s. Terry Kath was the glue, who would have left the band behind, but a tragic loss. After that, they petered out into pop bubble gum. Cetera ruined that band.
  • P Olly from ChicagoTerry was a good looking guy. Was he hiding behind his hair?
  • Matt from Michigan This article mentions Shula's (among other things). When a friend of mine first told me Chicago was signed there, I thought he was full of it, as I had always known the place as a bowling alley on 11th Street--also known as US 31 at that time. I didn't believe him until I saw them perform at the Berrien County Youth Fair in 1995. Berrien County is the Michigan County which houses Niles and Buchanan. At the concert, Bobby Lamm said, "We have a lot of ties to Berrien County" (or something like that). Then, he said to the band, "You all remember old man Shula." My jaw about hit the floor. Years later, I would find articles like this one posted on line regarding the whole thing.
  • Matt from MichiganSpeaking to Charles' inquiry, I grew up in Buchanan, MI. I still have some family there. As others have posted, the song is referencing a town in West Virginia. Interestingly enough, however, CTA was signed by Guercio after playing a week long stint at Shula's in Niles, just north of the Indiana state line. I was born in '76, so I wasn't alive when Shula's was "Shula's Supper Club", but I DID bowl at Shula's 31 Bowl, and the place is now owned by the guy who was my neighbor when I lived in Buchanan. He turned it into a burger joint called Joey Armadillo's.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 29th 1970, "Make Me Smile" by Chicago entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; nine weeks later on May 31st, 1964 it would peaked at #9 {for 2 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    The song was from the group's second studio album, "Chicago II", and two other tracks from album also made the Top 10, "25 to 6 to 4" {peaked at #4} and "Colour My World" {reached #7}.
  • Dennis from UsThe concert from Tanglewood in 1970 contains the entire ballet performed live in its entirety. terry kath clearly credits only jimmy pankow and the pronunciation is definitely 'Buck'annon. Oddly enough, Terry also clearly says the word 'from' and not 'for'. Listen to the clip on youtube. The entire concert is there, also. He says this song, written by jimmy is called 'A Ballet From A Girl in Buchannon'. Clip is here but do watch the entire concert.
  • Howard from Levittown, PaHaving listened to Blood, Sweat & Tears' debut, I can't help but wonder if Pankow deftly composed "Make Me Smile" over the theme and song structure of Randy Newman's "Just One Smile." BS&T did take their cue from Guercio's work with the Buckinghams, so was this a salute back? So far, Google isn't turning up anything about that. If ideas were borrowed, it wouldn't be the first time and Pankow did it well.
  • Howard from Levittown, PaHaving listened to Blood, Sweat & Tears' debut, I can't help but wonder if Pankow deftly composed "Make Me Smile" over the theme and song structure of Randy Newman's "Just One Smile." BS&T did take their cue from Guercio's work with the Buckinghams, so was this a salute back? So far, Google isn't turning up anything about that. If ideas were borrowed, it wouldn't be the first time and Pankow did it well.
  • Oldpink from Farmland, InThis is but one example of why many described Terry Kath as the "white Ray Charles."
    His guitar and amazing voice will forever be missed.
  • Staley from Dallas, TxWe played a marching band version of this when I was in high school in the early 80s.
  • Dave from Easton, PaWhat a player and singer Terry Kath was! Take notice, though, that only in the first two or three albums does the guitar play as large a part in the overall sound as the horns. Chicago was primarily about the horn section after that, until the 80's hits came around. (Also known as the hornless years.)
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaWhat mileage was garnered by the Mob's(chicago rock group) original horn sound, and Jim Guercio's different group productions...the Buckinghams, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and then Chicago... all having that great horn sound!
  • Henry from Pawtucket, RiThe "girl" was Pankow's girlfriend who was leaving for school in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Somehow, it got typed up as Buchannon (minus the K)and it became Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon. Terry Kath introduces it as Ballet for a Girl in Buck-hannon on the Carnegie Hall CD. It was Chicago's first hit.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaOne of Terry Kath's greatest moments. His vocals and guitar playing are really strong on this song. As an aside, my first-ever rock concert was Chicago at Reading Municipal Stadium, Reading, Pa.,in 1976 (or '77) and I remember being impressed as hell by Terry Kath, smoking a cigarette while he jammed like a madman.
  • Ed from Topeka, Ks"Make Me Smile", the album edition, has one of the greatest guitar solos, by Terry Kath.

    A weird combo of jazz, blues and hard rock.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcI started this thread; nice to see it has produced some good comments. I have worked in Buchannon Michigan; is it possible the girl in the song suite title is from there? It is only a little over an hour's drive from Chicago.
  • Jim from Woodridge, IlI actually worked for Walter Parazaider Sr. for about six months and met "Walt Jr". The job allowed me to talk with Walt Jr. for a couple of days. We discussed the entire "ballet" and most all of their other songs. Walt Jr. believes that Jimmy Pankow should be credited as a co-composer on most all of their songs using horns because of all the work he did arranging the parts. Truly a phenomenal sound!
  • Kevin Witt from Haymarket, VaTerry Kath sang with so much passion you could feel it. He is so missed.
  • Mark from Mchenry, IlOne of my favorite Chicago songs, along with "Beginnings." The lead vocal sounds a bit rough, but that adds to the appeal of the song. To Alison of Marysville, OH, "Smile" is a great song that has been covered by many people. One of the most popular versions was by Nat King Cole.
  • Sebastian from Middletown, NyJasmine doesn't know the Chicago song "Hard To Say I'm Sorry". But my dad knows it. It's one of my favorite songs. The only song Jasmine knows is "A Whole New World". My favorite movie is Aladdin and if Jasmine came here, I'd let her hear the Chicago song "Hard To Say I'm Sorry". If that happened, then she'd know it.
  • Don from Atlanta, Ga'Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan' (not 'from') is the name of the collection of pieces that Make Me Smile is excerpted from. The other pieces of the 'ballet' fall in the middle section, with Make Me Smile forming the beginning & end. I just think it's an empty song without the entire collection being played together as a full unit. The only excerpt which can stand alone, I think, & have an independent full flavor all its own, is Pankow's 'Colour My World'. I was so sorry to see Cetera leave the group after the huge success of Chicago 17. Chicago was on the verge of once again becoming a megagroup, just as much if not moreso than in the early 70's. Cetera has one of the finest voices in rock. I can only guess he was tired of Chicago's extensive touring. His work immediately following his departure, including the theme to Karate Kid & his work with Amy Grant, was all nice, but he'd have had such a higher profile career (& probably more money) had he continued on with Chicago. Hard to Say I'm Sorry still ranks as my favorite Chicago song, a great comeback #1 hit after a lengthy lull in popularity. Sidebar: I got to meet James Pankow & Bill Champlin in a hotel lobby after a Chicago concert I attended (it was a chance meeting, I didn't know Chicago was staying at that particular hotel, the Peabody in Memphis, TN). Both were terrific to talk to, just really great guys.

  • Ken from Louisville, KyThe album was orginally named after the group's name at the time "Chicago Transit Authority". When officials from the actual CTA threatened to sue, they shortened their name to "Chicago". Although the album is still named "Chicago Transit Authority", most fans call it "Chicago 1"

  • Scott from Chicago, Ilgrowing up in chicago, this song remeinds me very
    much of the city in the early 70's. I always think of grant park and downtown.....I think this
    song also catches that protest carryover from the
    1968 convention....on the first Chicago album there is a clip of the protesters at the convention saying "the whole world's watching".
    Chicago was scary, vibrant, earthy, and very
    much happening during the late 60's and early
    70's..."Make me smile"
    captures this well...the horns and Terry Kath
    together somehow capture Chicago at this time...
    "feel the magic' indeed!
  • Alison from Marysville, Ohthere is a song i am trying to find .i think the title is " smile " it is a older song and rod stewart remade it recently . can anyone help ??
  • Dave from Pomeroy, OhColour My World was also in the "Ballet", it's is one of the GREATEST love songs of all time
  • Dave from Pomeroy, OhI think the the Ballet for a Girl from Buchannon is about a girl from West Virgina. West Virgina Fantasies was included in this, it was writtern by trombone player Jimmy Pankow, who's brother John played Ira on Mad About You
  • Jt from Hamilton Square, NjThere needs to be more information about Chicago. There were so many great songs to come from that band. Terry was the heart and soul of the root group. When he passed the band was never the same. After Terry died I listened to "Little One" and wept.
  • Courtney from Gloucester, VaThis is a fabulous song sung by Terry Kath. Very beautiful song actually.
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