Dialogue by Chicago – the words still matter (a reprise)

Robert Lamm, of the wonderful band Chicago, penned a song more than forty years ago called “Dialogue” that could still ring true today. The song resonates with me and is one of my personal favorites of the band because of its theme and musicality, but also the fact Lamm and lead singer Peter Cetera sang it as a dialogue. Two guys talking about the problems in the world. Here are the words:

Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?
I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high
Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?

I always thought that everything was fine
Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free
Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the president knows what he’s into, I don’t know
Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time

Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

I heard this song the other day on the radio for the first time in a long while and listened with my daughter as we drove to school. I found myself pointing out how the song is sung and called a dialogue. She thought that was cool. But, it got me thinking about the words. The problems then still exist today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have a national and global poverty problem. I am glad Pope Francis is bringing attention to this more.

We have a national and global problem with how we treat women and girls. Former President Jimmy Carter’s said his new book “A Call to Action” on this issue is the most important mission of his life. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky” speaks to these issues as well. I would add global poverty and how we treat women are linked, as woman hold up “half the sky” per the Chinese proverb used by Kristof and WuDunn. If you treat women poorly, in addition to their maltreatment, you are impacting half of your intellectual capital and economic value as a community.

Per my blogging friend George Dowdell, through his vast experience on a mission to help the impoverished, global poverty is also directly traceable to violence and corruption. Corruption takes the money that could be used to help others and violence is the mechanism to keep control and keep others down. These two seem to go hand in hand. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had a net worth of $70 billion, while his constituents got by on less than $2 a day, e.g.

Throughout history, the “haves” have taken advantage of the “have-nots.” The “have-nots” do not have a voice or when they have, it has taken a huge effort over time to change the paradigm. It is only with this groundswell of effort that will help change the world. Per Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So, back to Chicago’s song “Dialogue.” Re-read the final chorus that closes the song. It is repeated as a mantra over and over again. The influence of the “haves” is huge and, in the US has been made easier with recent Supreme Court rulings. The “have-nots” need that voice. They need those committed citizens that Mead and Chicago talked about.

How do we do this? One step, one block, one community, one city at a time. Find your passions and reach out to help others. But, don’t just band-aid a problem. Look to find ways to improve people’s lots in life. Become better informed through reputable news sources. Speak out against injustice or just start asking more “why” questions of leaders and people with strident views that seem harmful. Why do you think that? Why should we do that? Write letters, write emails, make phone calls. Go to events to educate yourself on an issue. Go to protest injustice.

Many of the leaders of efforts to help did not listen to naysayers and blockers who said they could not accomplish change. There is an old line about change. Get people on the bus that will help you make change, not hinder it. We are more powerful than me. So, enlist or join your efforts with others. The operative word is “we” – “we can make it happen.” But, it starts with me.

dialogue by chicago live – Bing

20 thoughts on “Dialogue by Chicago – the words still matter (a reprise)

  1. An interesting piece, Keith, and you’re right: those words do still matter and have relevance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this one before, but I wasn’t a Chicago fan so that probably isn’t surprising!

    • Clive, I have always enjoyed their musicality. My wife and I saw them touring late in their career. The main lead singer, Peter Cetera had long ago left to pursue a solo career. My favorite of theirs is “25 or 6 to 4” but I also like “Saturday in the Park.” Keith

      • PS – When we saw them it was in amphitheater and it rained the entire first half. If it had not stopped, we would have left at intermission. The band and its fans were troopers for remaining.

      • I only really liked some of their early stuff, when they were still the Chicago Transit Authority. I think 25 or 6 to 4 dates from then – it is one I liked too.

      • Clive, I remember debates in high school as to what the song title and chorus meant. Once explained, it was of course. Keith

  2. I’ve never heard this one before … very meaningful lyrics that have always been, and will likely always be relevant. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • Thanks. The video does it justice. You are right about the more things change, the more they stay the same. They just get amplified faster on social media.

  3. Note to Readers: After we saw Chicago perform about ten years ago, they started touring with Earth Wind and Fire. Both groups featured horns. One of the neat things they would do is play an opening song together, then ask the audience which group should go first. It would vary from night to night. Now, that took some dialogue, pun intended.

    • Thanks Cindy. It is a great example of their tremendous body of work. I don’t know if you saw my comment to Clive about seeing them in the rain for the first half of the concert. I should have added, they made us check our umbrellas.

  4. A strongly argued and eloquent post Keith, with a timeless message which seem to echo a few statements in the New Testament.
    I’ve not heard this one from Chicago, like more than a few folk I can only recall ’25 or 6 to 4′. They were /are a class band.

    • Thanks Pallavi. I enjoy hearing a song that is not top of mind that takes me back. Often, I have to wrack my brain to remember the artist. Enjoy the Chicago reminiscing. Keith

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