Constable: New Cubs feeling inspires new Cubs song
A popular emcee for decades in the Fox Valley, veteran suburban radio newsman Stew Cohen will get a chance Friday night to introduce something unprecedented when he steps onstage at the Rock The Fox Music Fest in Carpentersville -- his own song, a rock anthem performed by Vertical Jam that honors the Chicago Cubs.
"The first song I wrote was about a girl in college. After that, really, no," says Cohen, 62, who lives in Crystal Lake, works as news director for WZSR 105.5-FM and 103.9-The Fox, and waited more than four decades before writing his second song.
"I'd like this season to be remembered as the season where we as fans were finally fulfilled with a Cubs' World Series championship," hopes Cohen, who says the first-place Cubs inspired him. He chose the title "Summer of Fulfillment in Cubbie Blue" because there already was an old song called "Summer of Joy," and fulfillment captures the feeling of so many fans who have waited so very long. With lyrics in hand, Cohen says he lucked into his composer and band.
Through connections from his time as a student at Maine East High School, where the late folk singer Steve Goodman graduated years before recording "Go, Cubs, Go," Cohen sent his lyrics to fellow alum Johnny Ryan, a Streamwood guitar player whose instrumental recordings with his brother, Jimmy, have been nominated for Grammy awards.
"I have always been a huge Cubs fan. When Stew sent me the lyrics, the music for them hit me right away," says Johnny Ryan, 62, who says he always has "hundreds of chord progressions" bouncing around his brain. "Inspiration doesn't come easy, but for some reason, it just really came together."
Working with the band's vocalist, Don Mills, 45, who grew up in Barrington and now lives in South Elgin, the pair hammered out the song on a recent Saturday afternoon.
"We made some embellishments, and before we knew it, we had the song," says Mills, who throws in verbal tributes to former Cubs broadcasters. "I had to do the Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse impressions."
The rest of Vertical Jam jumped on the Cubs song bandwagon.
"I don't think there's any Sox fan in the group. The entire band are Cubbies, so that worked out well," says bass player Jeff Bachemin, 63, of St. Charles, adding that this year's Cubs team reminds him of the Cincinnati Reds teams of the Big Red Machine era in the 1970s. A baseball player as a kid, the 6-foot-5 Bachemin played football at Cincinnati's Moeller High School, where he was a tight end for Coach Gerry Faust, who later coached at the University of Notre Dame. Even the football team had baseball links, as the Moeller rushing records set by future baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin were broken by future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
Bachemin says his own receiving skills were eclipsed by Tom Waddle, who became a fan favorite for the Chicago Bears before making a career with ESPN Radio in Chicago.
"Summer of Fulfillment" reminds keyboard player Jimmy Perrino of another very popular Chicago sports tune.
"It's like the Bears and 'The Super Bowl Shuffle.' It's like that," says Perrino, 62, of Mount Prospect, who honed his Cubs love during the summer of 1984.
"It's like an earworm, but a good one. It's catchy," drummer Dan Van Schindel, 60, of Palatine says of the new Cubs song. He says he fell in love with the Cubs when he went to a game at Wrigley Field as a young boy "and my dad called Ernie Banks over and he signed my glove."
Cohen says his inspiration couldn't have found a better home.
"These guys (in the band) are really good. I'm going to meet them for the first time Friday," says Cohen, who, like the audience, will also be hearing the song played live for the first time.
"I've listened to music for a long time. I've watched the Cubs for a long time. This is just a happy, Chicago-sounding piece of music," Cohen says, adding that there is one thing that could make Friday's debut even sweeter: "I feel a lot better when the Cubs win."