Friday A/V Club

The Daley Dynasty Is Dead, Again

Friday A/V Club: "It would be funny if heaven was just like the 11th Ward..."


New American Library

The Daley dynasty has not been restored. Richard J. Daley, the prototypical 20th-century big-city mayor and party boss, ruled Chicago for 21 years; the only man who held the office longer than that was his son, Richard M. Daley, who reigned for 22. This year Bill Daley, Richard M.'s brother, ran for the mayorship himself. But he finished third in the opening round of voting this week, so he won't be on the ballot when Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle meet for the run-off in April.

After the elder Daley died in 1976, the Chicago folksinger Steve Goodman marked the man's departure with a song called "Daley's Gone." He borrowed the tune and most of the chorus from the old murder ballad "Delia's Gone," and he wrote lyrics that alluded to everything from Daley's ballot-box stuffing in the 1960 presidential election to the fire that destroyed the allegedly fireproof exposition hall at McCormick Place. The song is somehow both a series of sly putdowns and a grudgingly heartfelt eulogy—the sort of thing you'd write about someone who occupied such an enormous stretch of the skyline that you can't imagine life without the guy whether or not you liked him. And while some of its verses may sound puzzling to people who didn't live in that particular city in that particular part of its history, it has at least one couplet that almost everyone should understand:

It would be funny if heaven was just like the 11th Ward
And you had to know the right people to receive your just reward

As we bid farewell to the Daley clan again—maybe forever, maybe just for a while—let Goodman play them off the stage:

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. For another one that involves Mayor Richard J. Daley, go here.)