Happy hump day LemonWire readers. We’ve got another song for you today to add to your summer playlist. This one, “Lake Shore Drive”, was written by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. And contrary to what some may believe, it is not a song about the hallucinogenic drug LSD.
So far this week, we’ve looked at more recent songs that play well in the summertime. Monday, we listened to Beck’s bouncy “Up All Night”, and yesterday, we heard The Black Keys’ most recent single, the fuzz-filled blues number, “Lo/Hi”. But there are more great summer songs to be found if we look back over the decades.
So for the rest of the week, we’ll be looking at some older songs that bring in the summer vibes. But before we get into our song for today, let’s first take a quick look at the group behind it.
Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah
Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah was an American rock group in the 1970s. The band’s name was derived from the last names of each of its three members: Mitch Aliotta, John Jeremiah, and Skip Haynes.
In a way, you could consider Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah to be a one-hit wonder band with “Lake Shore Drive”, which became a regional hit in the Chicago area. While Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah may not have achieved widespread recognition outside of their Chicago anthem, “Lake Shore Drive” has stood the test of time.
Lake Shore Drive
It seems like any song about driving, road trips, or journeys calls to mind memories of summer. Maybe this comes from the summer vacations taken by families while the kids are off school. Or maybe there’s just something ineffable about the warmest season, that gets under our skin and whispers in our ear to get moving.
Driving on a highway with the open road ahead symbolizes freedom, which we associate with the summertime from a young age. Summer holds a special place in our hearts as a season of carefree fun, and freedom. So what better song to listen to on a warm summer day than one that evokes those same feelings?
The bouncy, piano-driven rhythm of “Lake Shore Drive” accompanies an infectious melody and vivid images painted with the lyrics. It’s no wonder so many have assumed that the songs subject matter is drugs. But as we’ll see once we take a look at the lyrics, it really is just a song about a road.
It may come as a disappointment to the stoners, hippies, and new-age thinkers, but “Lake Shore Drive” is not a song about lysergic acid diethylamide. It’s no “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Instead, the song is actually about Lake Shore Drive, a lakefront highway in Chicago.
So let’s start with the first verse.
“There’s a road I’d like to tell you about, lives in my home town
Lake Shore Drive the road is called and it’ll take you up or down
From rags on up to riches fifteen minutes you can fly
Pretty blue lights along the way, help you right on by
And the blue lights shining with a heavenly grace, help you right on by”
The “blue lights” mentioned above may refer to the blue lighting of the reversible lanes that have since been removed. The second verse offers more evidence that we’re talking about a real road here.
“And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive”
Here we get a reference to Hollywood Ave in Chicago, the water from Lake Michigan on the east side when you’re driving south.
Although “Lake Shore Drive” is more of a Chicago anthem than a declaration of drug use, there are enough questionable lyrics to suggest otherwise. Most of these are sensory, like, “blue lights shining with a heavenly grace”, and being able to “smell the green if your mind is feeling fine”. There’s definitely enough there for any reasonable person who isn’t familiar with the Chicago landscape to assume that we’re talking about drugs here.
So which one was it? Was Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah trying to subtly hint at drug use, or was it nothing more than a simple coincidence? The only thing we can be sure of, is that when people hear the song, they ultimately make their own interpretations, each one just as valid as the original intended meaning. That’s the beauty of art.
That about wraps up our conversation for today. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with another song to add to your summer playlist.