It is commonly accepted wisdom that all of the great soul music of the early ’70s came from either Philadelphia, or Memphis. As great as Philly Soul and the Stax/Volt music is, today it is my intention to stick a pin in that particular balloon. To hold to such a narrow vision is to negate the contribution of America’s Second City, and with it that of Chicago’s favorite sons, the Chi-Lites.
When the group formed in the late ’50s, they were known as the Chanteurs. Proud Chicagoans that the were though, the name was changed in tribute to their hometown in 1964. But it wasn’t until 1971 that the Chi-Lites scored their first major hit with “Have You Seen Her”, a song written by lead singer Eugene Record, and Barbara Acklin.
The single was released by Brunswick Records in 1971, and it rocketed skyward, all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #1 on Billboard Hot R&B chart.
“Have You Seen Her” was followed by an even bigger smash the following year, the indelible “Oh Girl.” Other hits like “The Coldest Days of My Life (Part 1),” and “Stoned Out of My Mind” followed, but a series of lineup changes seemed to take some of the group’s magic. Eventually the hits dried up, but the Chi-Lites are still touring today, led by original member Marshall Thompson, and long time lead vocalist Frank Reed. Eugene Record died in 2005.
The Chi-Lites were inducted into the R&B Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005.
You may recall this cover version of “Have You Seen Her” from 1990:
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