“I’m so lucky to have the gift of being able to express what I feel musically. Music is an international language. It is enjoyable and relatable to all ages, by all ages, by all races, all over the world. It’s just primal catharsis that allows us to pour our feelings out in some sort of orderly fashion and then share it with others, and we see that when we play around the world.
To be able to write something down that’s so personal and at the same time is a release. I mean, you could write the greatest songs in the world, but if you have no one to share it with, what’s the point?”
Jimmy Pankow on songwriting
“Just You ‘N’ Me”
Music and Lyrics: James Pankow
Producer: James William Guercio
Billboard called “Just You ‘N’ Me” one of Chicago’s “best singles ever,” with a “heartfelt and mature” love lyric. It reached # 4 on the U.S. charts in December 1973 and was the very last song played by Chicago radio station WLS(AM) before switching to a talk radio format in 1989.
Pankow: My wife at the time and I had a hideous fight. Just a real bad fight, and she had locked herself in the bathroom. And I was going, ‘Come out of there, we’ve gotta talk. Come on out of there.’ ‘No, no, you go away, you beast!’
And instead of going through the door, I just went to the piano, and I turned on the tape recorder, which was sitting on the grand piano. It’s the only song I’ve ever written before or since that I sat down at the piano, and I turned the tape recorder on and [singing] “You are my love in my life, you are my inspiration, just you and me.” The melody, the lyric, the chords, they all happened just like it was— they just came out of my fingers.
It was a moment of clarity that I’ve never experienced before or since and to this day. I wonder how that happened, you know, when the song in its complete form comes out of your fingers and you’re there going, ‘What just happened?’
So often, sitting down and coming up with a song idea is like pulling teeth. You may come up with a part of a verse. You may come up with one little chorus line. It can start with two words. It can start with a sentence. It can start with just a singular idea that becomes sentences and words and stories. You could be standing in a checkout line at the market. Someone said, ‘Some of the best ideas have come and gone forever because I didn’t have a way to write it down or sing into a tape recorder when it happened.’
“Just You ‘N’ Me” came out of me in its entirety, and I had sung it into a ghetto blaster. I brought the cassette to the studio, and everybody was bringing in songs cause we were in the process of recording up at the Caribou Ranch. And I remember asking the guys. I said, ‘Is this any good?’ And Robert Lamm said, ‘Any good? This is a fucking smash!’