A lot of leading lights in popular music went to public schools in the windy city: Kanye West, Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, Bo Diddley, Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones and Nat “King” Cole.
54 of these Chicago-themed tracks are on an iMix playlist on iTunes. The playlist was the brainchild of Brad Harbaugh, who runs the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) alumni website. Struck by the number of famous musicians when he was going through the alumni’s honor roll, he drew up a list of Chicago’s best.
CPS doesn’t profit directly from the sale of the $0.99USD tracks, but it is a nice way to promote schools and a cool idea for Chicago lovers in general. You can also see a list of the tracks, as well as exactly where the artists went to school in Chicago and when, on the alumni site.
There are a few unexpected tracks on the Chicago playlist like “A Boy Named Sue” by Shel Silverstein, “City of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman and “Rawhide” by Frankie Laine alongside the Jones’ theme to TV show “Sanford and Son,” “Change Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke and “Chuck E’s in Love” by Rickie Lee Jones.
On the downside, some alums whose lyrics were too deemed too explicit like Rhymefest and DaBrat were kept off the playlist.
More than just hot air, the idea is that music is an important part of the curriculum at Chicago public schools. Students from 50 high schools perform in a solo and ensemble concerts every spring at various high schools and elementary schools. The program, in its 84th year, is said to be the longest-running public-school concert series in the country.
The Chicago playlist is also a work in progress — if you know for sure what school Lupe Fiasco went to, let them know.