Every once in a while, I hit on a song that spoke to the generation it was recorded for, but, as it stands, is just as timely today as it was back then.  At one time, I mentioned Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, and “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”.  Those songs speak as easily to us today as they spoke in the past.

Today, I’m talking about “Dialogue, Pts 1 & 2″.  Released by Chicago on their exemplary album, Chicago V, in 1972, the song is a social statement in a ‘dialogue’, a Q&A between a concerned peer, and a spoon-fed clueless one.

In the Robert Lamm-penned song, sung by both Terry Kath, and Peter Cetera, Kath is questioning whether the oppressive concerns of the world are being attended to by the collegiate Peter Cetera.  Cetera’s world-view is that of apathy and blindness.  However, in the end, Kath feels eased while Cetera goes on to say, “if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numb, you’d always think that everything was fine”.

As this fine song draws to a close, choruses of “We can make it better”, “We can change the world now”, and “we can save the children” end the tune with optimism, as songs from the disconcerted and uneasy ’70s often attempted. The song finishes with a hopeful “We can make it happen”.

The lyrics are as follows:

Kath: Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
Cetera: No, I never ever think of it at all
Kath: Don’t you ever worry when you see what’s going down?
Cetera: No, I try to mind my business, that is no business at all.

Kath: When it’s time to function as a feeling human being, will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?
Cetera: I hope to study further, a few more years or so, I also hope to keep a steady high.
Kath: Will you try to change things, use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
Cetera: What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?
I always thought that everything was fine

Kath: Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
Cetera: No, the campus here is very, very free
Kath: Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Cetera: Well, I hope the President knows what he’s into, I don’t know, I just don’t know.

Kath: Don’t you see the starvation in the city where you live?  All the needless hunger, all the needless pain?
Cetera: I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine.  My neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time, haven’t got the time.
Kath: Thank you for the talk, you know ,you really eased my mind.  I was troubled by the shapes of things to come.
Cetera: Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb.  You’d always think that everything was fine, everything was fine!

Part II:
We can make it better
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can change the world now
We can save the children
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can make it happen
We can make it happen
We can save the children
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can make it happen

We can make it happen, we can make it happen yeaah!

Social consciousness in music is not new.  But it is often eye-opening to me as I hear something like “Dialogue” and marvel just at how little we have really accomplished.  The issues that were important back in the ’60s and ’70s still seem to be here.  In many cases, the concerns are stronger than ever.

Still, I have hope!

On another note with regard to “Dialogue”, I find it an ignored song when you piece together ‘best of’ collections for Chicago.  When Chicago released their first ‘best of’, Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits in 1975, “Dialogue was conveniently left off.  I remember being quite pissed in learning of this exclusion.  It wasn’t the first time a band left off an obvious choice in favor of something else, and it won’t be the last.  Nevertheless, I find “Dialogue” (both parts) not only musically pleasing, but an important part of the band’s wide array of tracks.  It spoke to their aware side.  And ours.

It still does.