For a time this spring, the greatest symbol of Peter Cetera’s storied pop-rock career rolled around on his car’s front floorboard.
Occasionally, the 71-year-old singer and musician would pull out his recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trophy, the product of his success that began with the long-running group Chicago, which he left three decades ago, to proudly display to friends.
Until he dropped it and cracked the base. And fumbled it and scratched the trophy to boot.
“I’ve had more fun just showing it to people in my little town,” Cetera said, speaking by phone from his home in Ketchum near the resort community of Sun Valley, Idaho, where he has been an avid skier, climber, mountain biker and general “outdoor sports dude,” as he put it. The great outdoors will call to him again on Sept. 3 when tenor Cetera headlines the 30th annual Our Hospice of South Central Indiana free concert at Mill Race Park in Columbus. He plans a set of about 16 tunes, including Chicago hits that he wrote or sang, plus material from eight solo albums, not to mention stories behind a lot of the tunes.
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In recent shows, his lineup has included No. 1 solo hits such as 1986’s “Glory of Love” and “The Next Time I Fall,” plus No. 1 Chicago hits such as “If You Leave Me Now” from 1976, “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” from 1982, and other popular singles such as “You’re the Inspiration” from 1984 and “Hard Habit to Break” from 1985.
Although the Columbus concert will unfold on a Saturday and, weather permitting, be held in a park, Chicago’s classic hit, “Saturday in the Park,” will be absent from Cetera’s set list.
“No,” he said with a chuckle. “I didn’t write it. I didn’t sing it. I do the songs I wrote.”
The only exception he makes to that guideline is that Cetera will perform the Chicago tune “25 or 6 to 4,” written by another founding member, keyboardist Robert Lamm, but originally sung by Cetera.
Cetera expressed mixed feelings about his original group’s long-awaited hall of fame induction in April.
“I think about the fact that we weren’t even nominated for all those years,” he said. “I just find that mind boggling.”
There was talk of original members of Chicago performing together at the hall induction in Cleveland.
Cetera had always left open the idea of a reunion with the band he left in the mid-1980s. But differences of opinion with Chicago’s current members on Cetera’s suggestions for key changes to “25 or 6 to 4” nixed that idea, Lamm said in a Rolling Stone interview.
Back in Indiana
Cetera views his Labor Day weekend concert at Mill Race Park as something of a homecoming, recalling a time in the 1960s before his days of fame and fortune with a major rock band and a major label.
“I have many good and fond memories of Indiana,” he said.
That includes a few dates with The Exceptions, one of his earlier bands, at Indiana Beach in Monticello.
Origin of a name
Backing him in Columbus will be his own seven-piece Nashville group, The Bad Daddies, which he calls “the greatest band ever.” The name was affixed a number of years ago during a rehearsal when group members’ then-young kids were running through the recording studio eating doughnuts.
“I thought, ‘Gosh — we’re such bad daddies, letting our kids eat junk and run around like lunatics,’” Cetera said.
One daughter, Claire Cetera, is now lead singer for the Los Angeles-based dance rock group City City and also an actress and painter.
He struggled to explain his duet dynamics that resulted in major hits with Amy Grant (“The Next Time I Fall”) and Cher (“After All”) and made him a soft rock VH1 star of the mid- and late-1980s. He’s more than happy to be planted firmly in sentimental love songs.
“All through my career, I’ve always had more luck with the ballads than with the more up-tempo things,” he said. “It’s not my fault that that’s the way the fans pick them.
“But I think in the end that people truly appreciate that I try to sing from the heart and from emotion. I sing with meaning, with feeling and with heart and soul. And I think people feel that.”
Some of them have said so in so many words.
“I fall in love all over again every time I hear these (love) songs,” a fan wrote on a YouTube page for Cetera’s videos.
What: 30th Annual Our Hospice of South Central Indiana fundraising concert.
Who: Opening Indianapolis-based cover band Lemon Wheel, performing at 6:30 p.m. Headliner is Grammy-winning artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Peter Cetera performing at 8 p.m.
Park opens from 8 to 11 a.m. for people to place lawn chairs for seating. Then it reopens for the event at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Mill Race Park on Fifth Street in Columbus.
Rain location: Columbus North High School gym, 1400 25th St.
Parking: The Cummins Inc. lot across from the park, downtown garages and other locations. Limited parking at the park for people with disabilities.
Concessions: Food and drinks available at the park with proceeds supporting hospice, which treats patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
Raffle tickets: At $10 each, proceeds support hospice’s work and give purchaser a chance to win $10,000.
Information: 812-314-8004 or ourhospice.org.
Columbus artist Donna Rosenberg has created another original acrylic painting to benefit this year’s Our Hospice of South Central Indiana concert. She painted ex-Eagles member Don Felder’s double-neck guitar to promote his show last year.
Her new work is titled “30 Years of Saturdays in the Park: Inspiration Valley,” and features an impressionistic view of Mill Race Park’s Round Lake with the covered bridge in the background. The title of the rendering highlights the 30th anniversary of hospice concerts and also references the park’s rebirth from its days of long ago when it was known as “Death Valley.”
The original four feet by four feet work, valued at $1,500, will be auctioned online at 32auctions.com/OurHospiceart Aug. 25 through Sept. 12.