Peter Cetera hardly knows who rapper Wiz Khalifa is, nor why Khalifa’s son Sebastian likes his music.
But in a video posted to YouTube in April, 4-year-old Sebastian sings Cetera’s ballad “You’re the Inspiration” to his dad, whose pot-centric raps have made him a star in the hip-hop community.
“I don’t know too much about Wiz Khalifa or that music,” Cetera said in a phone call from Nashville late last month. “It’s the funniest doggone thing. Now there’s the bigger generational gap, from a rapper to his child.”
“I think a good song’s a good song’s a good song,” he added. “I was lucky enough to write some really good songs that mean a lot to so many people.”
They are songs — “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Along Comes A Woman,” “Stay the Night,” “Hard Habit to Break,” “Glory of Love,” “The Next Time I Fall,” “One Good Woman,” “If You Leave Me Now” — that have stuck in pop culture’s collective conscience from the 1970s to today. And on Friday, Nov. 10, he will perform them with his seven-piece band at Desert Diamond Casino.
“I do all the songs — not all of them — but most of the ones I’ve written and produced and recorded and toured in both my solo career and Chicago,” said the former Chicago frontman, who left the band he helped start in the late 1960s to pursue a solo career in the mid-1980s.
Cetera, 73, blends in material from both careers in his shows, but he selects only the Chicago songs he wrote and sang. It’s not a Chicago tribute show by any means, he is quick to note.
In between those enduring hits he might slip in a new song he’s written. He hasn’t recorded new songs since 2001’s “Another Perfect World,” but he continues to write, he said.
He just hasn’t found a home for the new works.
“There seems to be a little bit of a gap when somebody reaches the age of 30,” he said and chuckled. “It’s hard to find a record label anymore.”
No, he doesn’t want to go the route of the Internet or YouTube or any other newfangled self-recording, downloading app that’s responsible for launching countless new careers.
He wouldn’t even know where to start.
“I think a lot of legends, artists, I think it’s a daunting thing, and it will be,” he explained. “I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know where it’s at and I don’t even know how to do it.”
Cetera is strictly old school when it comes to recording. A product of Chicago’s South Side, he joined the then-Chicago Transit Authority band in 1967, two years before its debut album. He contributed tenor vocals on the album, which in 2014 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. (Cetera and the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later.)
In the 1970s, Cetera became a prolific songwriter for Chicago. Among the hits he penned was one of the band’s biggest, “If You Leave Me Now,” from 1976’s “Chicago X” album. The song was Chicago’s first No. 1 hit not only in the U.S. but around the world, and it won the band its first and only Grammy.
It also was Cetera’s only Grammy, although he was nominated seven other times after leaving Chicago.
But those days, he says, are squarely behind him, and that’s fine.
“I am where I am right now,” he said. “I get questions about ‘Do you get tired doing your songs?’ No, because they are great songs and they mean a lot to people including myself. I don’t get tired of playing them, and when I’m on stage, I’m happy that people enjoy hearing them.”
Cetera’s touring these days is usually limited to a couple gigs a month, although this year has been a busy one.
“I’ve worked more this year than I have in many years, probably since I was with Chicago,” he said. Don’t ask him the clichéd question that veteran artists of his generation are asked — “What one song do you have to play every night or you’d face a fan riot?”
“There isn’t one, actually,” he says. “There’s a bunch of them. That’s why I’m lucky.
“Sometimes I can sing a song and stop singing and the crowd is singing louder than I am. So that’s good.”