Don't look for Peter Cetera to attend a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony for Chicago.
"It's politics," the former lead singer says of the process. "Somewhere along the line Chicago or the people associated with us did something or was perceived to have done something that was wrong. We were as rock and roll as any of the groups who've gotten in. It's an enormous insult and I wouldn't go if we were inducted."
A reunion with Chicago, perhaps? "I don't think so," Cetera says. "The day I'd do it would the be the day I'd sell my soul to the devil."
Still, the hitmaker has talked with band members about a reunion and realized "in every case when a band does it it's to make a lot of money. I don't have that in my mind. I've tried to maintain integrity in my life and do what's in my heart. Besides, I'm having too much fun as a solo artist."
Recently, Cetera performed a series of concerts in Japan where fans clamored to hear the hits that have colored his career for more than four decades. "They know all the songs -- even ones I don't do in concert but happened to be in Japanese movies and cartoons. They respect artists over there."
And they don't mind if he sings in English. Before a Chicago tour years ago, Cetera learned Japanese versions of two of the band's hits -- "Lowdown" and "Questions 67 and 68." "I'm sure it sounded like pigeon Japanese but I made the effort and they loved it," he says.
Today, he's very aware of audience desires. "When I go to hear somebody, I want to hear the songs I know. I don't want to hear five new songs. If you're going to do a new song, sandwich it in between something we know. That's what I do."
Considering the volume -- he has dozens of chart-topping songs to his credit -- Cetera can't always include everything. "I do most of the ones that I wrote and recorded," he says. "There are some I don't care to do, but I appreciate all of them. They're like your children."
That kind of catalog -- one filled to the brim with familiarity -- is rare these days, largely because artists don't get much time to mature.
"Look at this new generation of stars," he says. "For some, the first time they perform on TV is in front of 30 million people. When you don't have a backlog of music and you haven't paid your dues, it's difficult.
"I don't know if I would have made it in this atmosphere. I'm an introverted, shy person. I wouldn't have had the guts to enter a competition like that."
Instead, Cetera plowed a more familiar field. He bought a guitar in high school, learned how to play the hit songs, then joined a "dinky" band and moved up. "There was work everywhere...every club needed entertainment."
With that experience, he says, came style and class. "You learned a variety of songs by all types of musicians and paid attention to how they worked.
"Today, it's all about the solo artist. But bands are going to hit again."
Chicago, arguably the biggest American band of its day, gave Cetera plenty of exposure, experience and marketability. "It was like a marriage," he says. "We got into a situation where they wanted something and I wanted something else. Nobody wanted to budge. They wanted to move on and so did I. It was a mutual parting of the ways."
Cetera launched his solo career and did well. Today, though, he says "I could have been a bigger solo artist if I had had help from the record company. They wanted me back with Chicago."
To extend his reach, he wrote a song for "Rocky IV." "They didn't want to pay in the end, so I pulled the song. A few weeks later, I was hired to write a song for 'The Karate Kid' (Part II)." With a few slight changes, he was able to turn the "Rocky" number into "Glory of Love."
The upshot? Cetera was nominated for an Academy Award. He sang the song on the broadcast, too, and felt the nerves swell. "Right before I stepped on the stage, I realized, 'The whole world is watching. People in China are probably watching.'"
Singing the National Anthem at a World Series game brought similar emotions. "At the time I thought I didn't do well, but when I went back and looked at the tapes, both performances were much better than my memory."
Today, Cetera has fun touring the world, singing his songs and sparking memories for thousands of fans. "I'd really love to do a new CD, write some new things, but it's hard to find somebody out there to produce it.
"I don't really write unless I have something to write for," he adds. "I'm the guy in school who studied the night before for the big test."