Street Player, the new autobiography from former Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine, immediately grabs the reader’s attention with a riveting introduction: the frantic musician’s arrival at the tragic aftermath of bandmate Terry Kath’s self-inflicted, fatal gunshot. Following the conventions of modern memoir, this fascinating glimpse is only a snapshot of what is to come, and the clock accordingly winds backward to the author’s birth so that we may get all the details of his formative years. Many autobiographies stall out almost as soon as they begin by using this familiar template, and the reader is left fighting the urge to flip through the pages until the story becomes interesting. Not so with Seraphine. Focusing on his upbringing is not a personal indulgence but rather a necessary exploration in order to understand the man. By the time he helps found the band that will bring him international success, he has cemented a confrontational philosophy that will ultimately lead to his devastating downfall.
“From the time my parents brought me home from Oak Park Hospital in the late summer of 1948, I was a wild child with a constant need for movement,” Seraphine begins. “I had a tendency to run toward the flame.” And so he did, evolving into a defiant delinquent who once pushed an aggressive nun with such force that she staggered down a small stairway. At the age of 15, he became a father, and soon afterward he was getting into violent street fights as the member of a gang. Seraphine’s Chicago was an urban nightmare ruled by mob mentality (literally, as it was customary for members of Seraphine’s gang to work their way up to the local Mafia). His talent for drumming and a dogged persistence helped him escape from an existence that had a strong likelihood of ending early and violently. Yet to paraphrase an old axiom, you can take the kid out of the streets, but you can’t take the streets out of the kid. Seraphine’s past would cast a long shadow. Read More