50 Years Ago: Chicago’s Peter Cetera Attacked by Marines
Former Chicago bassist and singer Peter Cetera found out the hard way that the phrase "root, root, root for the home team" isn’t just a catchy line from a beloved song. On May 20, 1969, it served a real-world warning.
Following the completion of a grueling tour opening for Jimi Hendrix, Cetera – along with Chicago's saxophonist Walter Parazaider, guitarist Terry Kath and drummer Danny Seraphine – decided to take a trip to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to take in a day of baseball. The bassist’s beloved Chicago Cubs were set to take on the L.A. team in the first of a three-game series. The Cubbies completely dominated the Dodgers that day and won 7-0. As bad as the beat down was, however, perhaps the biggest loser in the park was Cetera when he came upon a group of servicemen.
"Four Marines didn't like a long-haired rock 'n' roller in a baseball park," the singer recalled in the liner notes to the Chicago box set. "And of course I was a Cub fan, and I was in Dodger Stadium, and that didn't do so well. I got in a fight and got a broken jaw in three places, and I was in intensive care for a couple of days.”
In his autobiography Street Player: My Chicago Story, Seraphine recalled exactly what transpired. "'Fuck you, hippie,' one of the guys told Peter. He got up from his seat and pushed Peter down the aisle. When Peter regained his balance and started back up the stairs, another guy from the crowd hauled off with a right hook and hit him square in the face.”
The attack ultimately impacted both Cetera's approach to singing and the general trajectory of Chicago.
“I had a broken jaw and I was wired shut for a few months,” Cetera said in 2009. “And when they cut the wires off, I was always afraid of my jaw sticking open again, so I don’t really open my mouth a lot when I sing.”
In the meantime, given time to think – lots of it – Cetera found himself, for the first time, moved to create.
“I had just gotten out of the hospital and was lying in my bed convalescing when they landed on the moon,” Cetera remembered in the Chicago box liner notes. “I grabbed my bass guitar and started this little progression on the bass, and started writing 'Where Do We Go From Here.' I think Walter Cronkite actually had said that, and I thought, 'Wow, where do we go from here?' So, in a melancholy way, I wrote it about that, and then I wrote it about myself, and about the world, and about everything in general – and that was my first writing credit."
Cetera went on to write or co-write some of Chicago’s most familiar songs including, "Baby, What a Big Surprise," "Feelin’ Stronger Everyday" and "If You Leave Me Now," which became the group’s first No. 1 single.