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Peter Cetera

Peter Cetera

You know, I started to write this installment of the only-slightly-regular blog, and through a careless click of the mouse pad, lost the whole thing when I was almost done. A roaring flame of idle middle-class rage quickly engulfed my brain. It was enough to make me wonder whether my unconscious was trying to send me a message – maybe this particular subject was just not – GASP! – important enough to put out there in cyberspace for people to see. But evidently, I am just that good at ignoring my unconscious.

The fact of my (literal) Freudian slip is especially curious, considering that my subject is one I take on with some amount of shame. As those of you who know me in the real world are aware, I am ashamed of very few things, especially those that involve corny and/or trashy pop culture treasures from my formative years. It just goes to show that even the bravest among us have moments of weakness of which we may or may not be proud. Mine? Facing the fact of having had the same unreasoning, obsessive fondness for Peter Cetera’s “The Glory of Love” as did every newly-ovulating American girl the summer it was released. It wasn’t simply that I was denying this feeling to others, but even to myself: when an acquaintance bemoaned the fact that the hit tune, immortalized as the love theme from “Karate Kid II,” is not available on iTunes, I privately sneered. However, if I’m honest with myself and you, I must cop to having had plenty of “knight-in-shining-armor” daydreams while listening to Cetera warble, “I am a man who will fight for your honor” – yeah, right, you and how many other middle-aged tenors?

Perhaps it’s the appalling unsexiness of Cetera – especially to those of us young enough to be his daughters, or sons – that makes it so difficult for some of us to own our uncritical fixation on his solo slow-jams, the second-best of which is clearly “Next Time I Fall,” a duet with the personality-free gospel star Amy Grant. (Later he tried to get funky by singing with Chaka Khan and Cher, but no amount of unmanageable hair can camouflage Cetera’s blinding blondness.) The best antidote for this poisonous cowardice comes, in fact, from Cetera himself, specifically from his earlier rock ballads with Chicago. I suppose he must have believed he could seduce even more married women in the Midwest without the rest of the band holding him back, but even the Ralph Macchio-inspired grandeur of “Glory” pales in comparison to the sensitive machismo – or is that macho sensitivity? – of “You’re the Inspiration,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” and “Hard Habit to Break.” Listen to them one after another, and it’s like a mini-song-cycle; add in the videos that got this unphotogenic group on MTV – populated by girl next door blondes shot in soft focus – and you’re as heartbroken as you were when Andie chose Blane instead of Duckie on prom night.