By Jim DeRogatis
Pop Music Critic
The Chicago Public Schools’ alumni Web site recently posted a long list of some of the city schools’ most famous musical graduates and their signature songs. Here are my own favorites from that list.
1. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, Wendell Phillips High School: An unforgettable, optimistic anthem during the Civil Rights movement, the enduring message of this song and the power of Cooke’s unrivaled vocal delivery proved they’d lost nothing with the passage of time as the tune was heard again and again the wake of President Obama’s election and inauguration (though the same could be said of “I’ll Take You There” by the Staples Singers, graduates of Parker High School, and a close second for this slot!).
2. “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley, Willard and Foster elementary schools: Simply put, without the rhythm that the former Ellas Otha Bates borrowed from Africa and infused with the energy of the streets of Chicago and the tempo of the passing “el” trains, there would be no rock ’n’ roll.
3. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West, Vanderpoel Elementary School: Unequalled on the current hip-hop scene as a producer crafting tracks with undeniable grooves and unbelievably catchy melodies, in time, West’s biggest contribution to the rap world may prove to be the fearlessness with which he’s expresses his emotions, as he does in this song, a moving tribute to his mother, Donda, whom Kanye was never “too cool” to say he loved.
Have a look at the list, then tell us your favorite three songs by Chicago school alumni!