What Is James Pankow’s Net Worth?
James Pankow is an American musician, songwriter, and producer who has a net worth of $20 million. Pankow is best known for being a member of the rock band Chicago, which he founded with Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, Danny Seraphine, and Lee Loughnane in 1967. Chicago has sold over 100 million records and released dozens of albums, including “Chicago Transit Authority” (1969), “Chicago” (1970), “Chicago at Carnegie Hall” (1971), “Twenty 1” (1991), and “Chicago XXXVI: Now” (2014). James plays trombone for Chicago, and he has composed songs such as “Colour My World,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” and “Make Me Smile.” In 2016, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the following year, Pankow was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. James also executive produced the 2016 documentary “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago,” which won awards at the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival and Sedona International Film Festival.
James Pankow was born James Carter Pankow on August 20, 1947, in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the son of Marion and Wayne Pankow, and his father was a musician. Actor John Pankow, who is best known for playing Ira Buchman on the NBC sitcom “Mad About You,” is one of James’ eight siblings. When Pankow was 8 years old, the family relocated to Park Ridge, Illinois. James began playing the trombone as a student at St. Paul of the Cross Elementary School, and he later played in the band at Notre Dame High School. Pankow attended Quincy College on a full music scholarship, and he studied the bass trombone there. After his freshman year, he went home for the summer and started a band. Since the group had been playing local shows, he decided to transfer to nearby DePaul University instead of returning to Quincy. James is a member of the fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Pankow and his fellow members of Chicago received the group’s National Citation and were recognized as Signature Sinfonians in August 2009.
While attending DePaul, James met Walter Parazaider and joined his band The Big Thing along with Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, Danny Seraphine, and Lee Loughnane. The group changed its name to Chicago Transit Authority after moving to Los Angeles and signing with Columbia Records. They released their self-titled debut album on April 28, 1969, and it reached #1 in France and went 2x Platinum in the U.S. The band then changed its name to Chicago so they wouldn’t be sued by the actual Chicago Transit Authority. They followed their successful debut with the Platinum “Chicago” (1970), “Chicago III” (1971), and “Chicago at Carnegie Hall” (1971). The band released nine more albums by the end of the decade, with “Chicago V” (1972), “Chicago VI” (1973), and “Chicago X” (1976) going 2x Platinum. The 1975 album “Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits” was certified 5x Platinum and reached #1 on the “Billboard” 200 chart and the Canadian “RPM” chart. In the ’80s, Chicago released seven albums, including the 6x Platinum “Chicago 17” (1984) and the 5x Platinum “Greatest Hits 1982–1989.”
In 1991, Chicago released their 21st album, “Twenty 1,” and it was followed by 1995’s “Night & Day: Big Band,” 1997’s “The Heart of Chicago 1967–1997,” 1998’s “The Heart of Chicago 1967–1998 Volume II” and “Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album,” and 1999’s “Chicago XXVI: Live in Concert.” Their first album of the 21st century, 2002’s “The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning,” was certified 2x Platinum. In 2011, the band appeared on the “American Idol” season finale, and they performed at the famed open-air amphitheatre Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. In 2013, James and a few other members of Chicago appeared in the Larry David film “Clear History,” and in 2017, the band performed on the PBS series “Soundstage.” They later released the performance as the album “Chicago: Greatest Hits Live.” The line-up has changed numerous times during Chicago’s five-decade history, but Pankow has remained a constant presence since the band’s inception. Besides his work with Chicago, James has also performed on tracks by Three Dog Night, the Bee Gees, and Toto, and he appeared in the 2020 film “Rolling Thunder.”
James married Karen Green on May 5, 1973, and they welcomed son Jonathan in 1981 and daughter Sarah in 1986. After Pankow and Green divorced in 1993, he married Jeanne Pacelli on May 9, 1998. James and Jeanne have two children, son Carter (born 1999) and daughter Lilli (born 2002).
Awards and Nominations
Chicago has been nominated for 10 Grammys, winning Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for “If You Leave Me Now” in 1977. Their other nominations were for Best New Artist of the Year (1970), Album of the Year for “Chicago” (1971), “Chicago X” (1977), and “We Are The World-USA For Africa/The Album” (1986), Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for “Chicago” (1971), Record of the Year for “If You Leave Me Now” (1977) and “Hard Habit To Break” (1985), and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” (1983) and “Hard Habit To Break” (1985). In 2014, the album “Chicago Transit Authority” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the band was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. Chicago won American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group in 1977 and 1986, and in 1971, they earned “Billboard” awards for Top Album Artist, Top Album Group, and the Trendsetter Award. In 1992, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.