With Chicago Music Forever, the Reader hopes to capture some of the many histories that have shaped the city’s multifaceted music community. Music journalism is often ephemeral, and that’s not a knock on it—the same quality that makes show recommendations useful also means they rarely have long shelf lives, and very few album reviews or artist interviews still feel relevant 20 years later. What would it look like to create music stories with an eye toward future audiences?
The Reader already does this to some extent, of course. Our archives contain a great deal of Chicago music history that’s just as informative now as when it was written, and we continue to publish such stories every year.
The ten new pieces at the heart of Chicago Music Forever add to the Reader’s record of this history, describing not just current events but also developments that span nearly 150 years. One chronicles the development of duranguense in the city’s Mexican American community around the turn of the 21st century; another details the Catholic school parties on the south and west sides that helped incubate the house-music scene in the 1970s and ’80s; a third describes Chicago’s emergence as an epicenter for the manufacture and distribution of musical instruments after the Great Fire.
By filling in gaps and corners and illuminating subterranean connections, this sort of storytelling can make it easier to grasp Chicago’s music history as an almost infinitely detailed and constantly evolving tapestry. In defiance of the segregation that blights the city, it demonstrates that no single thread exists apart from the others.
Aside from these ten pieces, this page contains an evolving selection from the Reader archives, which heavily favors material without an expiration date: oral histories, deep dives, memorial tributes, and obituaries. We’ve also included a link to our continuously updated community calendar of upcoming music events. Thank you for visiting, and we hope to see you again soon. —Philip Montoro, music editor
Chicago’s instrument industry helps the world make music
Chicago’s 1920s nightlife incubated world-changing musical and social experiments
How a gospel vocal style walked into Chicago and out to the world
Before Detroit had Motown, Chicago had Vee-Jay
Chicago’s Black musical visionaries charted paths for their communities in the 1950s and ’60s
P.S. Studios, where a musician recorded musicians
Mandingo Griot Society: a global exchange born in Chicago
Catholic school house
Malachi Ritscher gave Chicago’s fringe music his whole heart
Duranguense: made in Chicago
Duranguense: hecho en Chicago
From the Reader‘s Music Archives
Chicago Music history
Give your money to Mary Lane
Summoning the ghosts of Record Row
An oral history of the Green Mill
Why the AACM and AfriCOBRA still matter
An oral history of the Chosen Few Picnic, the ‘Woodstock of house music’
Building on the pillars of Blue Groove Lounge
The saga of Punkin’ Donuts
How Homocore Chicago propped open the gate for queer punks
The best Chicago albums of the 2010s
Remembering my 1973 introduction to Von Freeman
Neo: where misfits fit in
The Woman on the Right
Spoon’s last dance
Andrew Kitchen’s boogie strikes back
It beats dancing about architecture
Honoring the vanishing musical culture of Wicker Park
Keeping the beat
The Jackson Find
Chicago label Still Music rescues decades of house history from a south-side storage locker
Obituaries, tributes, and lost legends
Dave ‘Medusa’ Shelton was a fairy godmother to Chicago’s club scene
Did John Prine die for Donald Trump’s sins?
Mic Shane helped boost Chicago hip-hop onto a global stage
DJ Rashad is gone, but his influence on footwork lives on
Goodbye to songwriter Michael Smith
The House That Fred Built
Bob Koester leaves a colossal legacy in Chicago jazz and blues
Doom-metal pioneer Eric Wagner has left our plane too soon
Long live Squeak
Remembering the quiet king of Chicago music promoters
Remembering Chicago music champion Christen Thomas
A memorial to Alejandro Morales
Parker Lee Williams helped shape Chicago hip-hop—and he never stopped building
Farewell to unsung house-music architect Rodney Bakerr
Remembering Benji Espinoza, champion of Chicago house music
current music coverage
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Community music listings
Comprehensive listings of concerts and music events from a wide variety of event organizers—including Reader readers. Click “Promote your event” below to submit event listings.
You can also browse full, unfiltered event listings in all categories and browse a page of event listings prefiltered for arts categories.
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