Peter Paul Cetera, born in Chicago, Illinois, is a singer, songwriter, bass guitar player and producer. He is best known for being an original member of the rock band Chicago, before launching a successful solo career. As a solo artist Cetera has scored five Top 40 singles, including two that reached number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Cetera's interest in music began at 11 years of age when his parents bought him an accordion instead of the guitar he wanted. When he was 15, some older students from his high school took him to a club to see a band called The Rebel Rockers, and he went and bought an acoustic guitar at Montgomery Ward.
He eventually took up the bass guitar, and with some high school friends—a drummer, guitarist and saxophone player—Cetera began playing the local dance circuit, dividing lead vocals with the guitarist. Cetera played in several groups in the Chicago area, including a popular local rock band named The Exceptions, which toured the Midwest in the mid 1960s, releasing two albums and several singles. Cetera is quoted as saying, "By the time I was 18 I was making more money than my dad."
In December 1967, Cetera watched a band called The Big Thing. Impressed by their use of a horn section combined with rock and roll, Cetera left The Exceptions to join The Big Thing within two weeks. The Big Thing, which soon changed its name to The Chicago Transit Authority (and eventually shortened it to Chicago after complaints by the actual CTA), released their self-titled debut album The Chicago Transit Authority on Columbia Records in 1969.
Cetera sang lead vocal on three of the eleven songs on the album, with his tenor voice complementing the baritone voices of the two other lead singers in the group, keyboardist Robert Lamm and guitarist Terry Kath. His trademark singing style would develop as a result of having to sing for a period of time with a wired-shut jaw after getting into a brawl at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 1969.
The follow-up album, Chicago, vaulted the band to popular status throughout the world. The song "25 or 6 to 4" was the first major hit single with Cetera singing lead vocals. Chicago is also notable for featuring Cetera's first songwriting effort, "Where Do We Go From Here?"
As the 1970s progressed, Cetera would become a more prolific songwriter for the group, contributing the hits "Wishing You Were Here," and "Happy Man" from the 1974 album Chicago VII.
His biggest singing and songwriting accomplishment with Chicago came in 1976 with their first worldwide No. 1 single, the ballad "If You Leave Me Now." Cetera's next composition in 1977, "Baby, What A Big Surprise," also became a major hit and cemented the band's status in the late 1970s as a "ballad band."
By the end of the 1970s, with the rise of disco music, Chicago's popularity declined, culminating in the release of the band's poorest-selling album Chicago XIV in 1980. Columbia Records subsequently bought out the remainder of Chicago's contract.
Peter Cetera's first solo single after parting ways with Chicago, "Glory of Love" (theme for the movie The Karate Kid, Part II), went to No. 1 in 1986. It won an ASCAP Award for Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures and a BMI Film & TV Award for Most Performed Song from a Film. It was also nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in the category of Best Original Song, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male Artist.
His album, Solitude/Solitaire, released in 1986, was also successful, selling over 1 million copies and producing another No. 1 hit single, "The Next Time I Fall," a duet with Amy Grant, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. In fact, Solitude/Solitaire outsold Chicago 18 (#35), the first Chicago album without him.
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