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.)

NEXT: Movie Reviews: The Hole in the Ground and Mapplethorpe

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  1. Preckwinkle, huh-huh, huh.

  2. Hey Chicago what’d you say? Preckwinkle’s going to win today.

    Steve Goodman – gone too soon.

  3. One more from Steve Goodman….

  4. I scared the shit out of a couple of my coworkers the other day by suggesting that the Reason for Rahm’s sudden departure is that he’s seen the writing on the wall for the City. That, supposing he could’ve turned the city around with his policies, there would be no reason to quit but that at this point, unless there’s no way anyone could. So, the options are to say you had a good run and call it quits and be remembered as a modestly successful footnote or be remembered as the man in charge of running Chicago into the ground. Let Lightfoot and Preckwinkle fight over who’s going to be the deserting rat and who’s going down with the ship.

    1. I’m sure that is part of it, but after the video of the Laquon McDonald shooting was released (and after he had sat on it for years), there was no chance he would be re-elected.

  5. Fun fact about Daley–the year he first won the election for mayor, he ran in the primary against then-mayor Martin Kennelly. On the same ticket as Kennelly, running for city clerk, was Marion Isbell, who went on to found the Ramada hotel chain.

  6. Nice write-up. Disturbing how the Daley’s have long been the moderate and responsible option until jr. got reckless in his last two terms. The Old Man boasted a strong financial position, a stable economy and a stable population when most big cities were facing steep declining populations and growing deficits.

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