“If You Leave Me Now” resonated in many ways that no other Chicago song has ever done. Released as a single in 1976 off the American rock group’s album Chicago X, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed there for two weeks, making it the first No. 1 hit for the group. Remarkably, this song was one of only five “non-disco” songs to make it to No. 1 in the United States in a nine-month period during that year. In addition to that, it also hit No. 1 on the Easy Listening charts.
It was also Chicago’s biggest hit internationally, topping the charts in other countries such as Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, where it maintained the No. 1 position for an impressive three weeks.
“The song was so pervasive on radio upon its release that, reportedly, those tuning in in New York could hear the song playing on four different stations, each with varying formats, simultaneously,” Zachary Houle, writer of PopMatters, said.
“If You Leave Me Now” went on winning big during the 1976 Grammy Awards as it took home Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus – the first Grammy Award won by the group. The song also received a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.
Two years later, “If You Leave Me Now” has been certified gold and platinum by the RIAA for selling 1.4 million copies in the United States.
Chicago’s Most Successful Song
Written by bass player Peter Cetera, “If You Leave Me Now” is a full-on pleading. The man in the song makes his case for why the love of his life should not leave him in a very histrionic fashion.
“If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me. No, baby, please don’t go. And if you leave me now, you’ll take away the very heart of me. No baby, please don’t go, no I just want you to stay,” the song goes.
Interestingly, the song does not really have a chorus; instead, the whole thing is basically one extended soft-focus hook. But the melody suited Cetera’s voice very well, which can reach the notes to accentuate these feelings. He definitely did a great job of pushing emotional extremes.
See it for yourself in the video below.