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Steve Goodman

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Steve Goodman
19830430 Steve Goodman.gif
Goodman (1983-04-30)
Background information
Born July 25, 1948
Chicago, Illinois
Died September 20, 1984 (age 36)
Seattle, Washington
Genres Folk, country, rock, pop
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Singer, guitarist
Years active 1968-1984
Labels Buddah, Asylum, Red Pajamas
Associated acts John Prine, Kenneth C. "Jethro" Burns, Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Koloc, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton, David Allan Coe

Steve Goodman (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984) was an American folk music singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. The writer of "City of New Orleans", made popular by Arlo Guthrie, Goodman won two Grammy Awards.

Personal life

Born on Chicago's North Side to a middle-class Jewish family, Goodman began writing and performing songs as a teenager, after his family had moved to the near north suburbs. He graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois in 1965. In the fall of 1965, He entered the University of Illinois and pledged Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammies) fraternity where he, Ron Banyon, and Steve Hartmann formed a popular rock cover band, "The Juicy Fruits". He left college after one year to pursue his musical career. In 1968 Goodman began performing at the Earl of Old Town in Chicago and attracted a following.[1] By 1969, after a brief sojourn in New York City's Washington Square, Goodman was a regular performer in Chicago, while attending Lake Forest College. During this time Goodman supported himself by singing advertising jingles.

It was also in early 1969 that Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia, the disease that would be present during the entirety of his recording career, until his death in 1984. In September 1969 he met Nancy Pruter, who was attending college while supporting herself as a waitress. They were married in February, 1970. Though he experienced periods of remission, Goodman never felt that he was living on anything other than borrowed time, and some critics, listeners and friends have said that his music reflects this sentiment. His wife Nancy, writing in the liner notes to the posthumous collection No Big Surprise, characterized him this way:

Basically, Steve was exactly who he appeared to be: an ambitious, well-adjusted man from a loving, middle-class Jewish home in the Chicago suburbs, whose life and talent were directed by the physical pain and time constraints of a fatal disease which he kept at bay, at times, seemingly by willpower alone . . . Steve wanted to live as normal a life as possible, only he had to live it as fast as he could . . . He extracted meaning from the mundane.

Musical career

Goodman's songs first appeared on Gathering at The Earl of Old Town, an album produced by Chicago record company Dunwich in 1971. As a close friend of Earl Pionke, the owner of the folk music bar, Goodman performed at The Earl dozens of times, including customary New Year's Eve concerts. He also remained closely involved with Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he had met and mentored his good friend, John Prine.

Later in 1971, Goodman was playing at a Chicago bar called the Quiet Knight as the opening act for Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson, impressed with Goodman, introduced him to Paul Anka, who brought Goodman to New York to record some demos. These resulted in Goodman signing a contract with Buddah Records.

All this time, Goodman had been busy writing many of his most enduring songs, and this avid songwriting would lead to an important break for him. While at the Quiet Knight, Goodman saw Arlo Guthrie, and asked to be allowed to play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed, on the condition that Goodman buy him a beer first; Guthrie would listen to Goodman for as long as it took Guthrie to drink the beer. Goodman played "City of New Orleans", (original lyrics) which Guthrie liked enough that he asked to record it. Guthrie's version of the song became a Top 20 hit in 1972, and provided Goodman with enough financial and artistic success to make his music a full-time career. The song, about the Illinois Central's City of New Orleans train, would become an American standard, covered by such musicians as Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, and Willie Nelson, whose recorded version earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1985. A French translation of the song, "Salut Les Amoureux", was recorded by Joe Dassin in 1979. According to his wife, the song began as Goodman in his imagination wandered all the way to New Orleans while on a train from Chicago to visit her elderly grandmother in Mattoon, Illinois.

In 1974, singer David Allan Coe achieved considerable success on the country charts with Goodman's and Prine's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name", a song which good-naturedly spoofed stereotypical country music lyrics. Prine refused to take a songwriter's credit of the song, although Goodman bought Prine a jukebox as a gift from his publishing royalties.

Goodman's success as a recording artist was more limited. Although he was known in folk circles as an excellent and influential songwriter, his albums received more critical than commercial success. Ironically, one of Goodman's biggest hits was a song he didn't write – "The Dutchman", written by Michael Peter Smith.

During the mid- and late-seventies, Goodman became a regular guest on Easter Day on Vin Scelsa’s radio show in New York City. Scelsa’s personal recordings of these sessions eventually led to an album of selections from these appearances, The Easter Tapes.

In 1977, Goodman performed on the Tom Paxton live album New Songs From the Briarpatch (Vanguard Records), which contained some of Paxton's topical songs of the 1970s, including "Talking Watergate" and "White Bones of Allende", as well as a song dedicated to Mississippi John Hurt entitled "Did You Hear John Hurt?"

Goodman wrote and performed many humorous songs about Chicago, including three about the Chicago Cubs: "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request", "When the Cubs Go Marching In" and "Go, Cubs, Go" (which has frequently been played on Cubs' broadcasts and at Wrigley Field after Cubs wins.) The Cubs songs grew out of his fanatical devotion to the team, which included many clubhouse and on-field visits with Cub players. Other songs about Chicago included "The Lincoln Park Pirates", about the notorious Lincoln Towing Service, and "Daley's Gone", about Mayor Richard J. Daley. Another comic highlight is "Vegematic", about a man who falls asleep while watching late-night TV and dreams he ordered many products that he saw on infomercials. He could also write serious songs, most notably "My Old Man", a tribute to Goodman's father, Bud Goodman, a used car salesman and World War II veteran.

Goodman won his second Grammy, for Best Contemporary Folk Album, in 1988 for Unfinished Business, a posthumous album on his Red Pajamas Records label.


On September 20, 1984, Goodman died at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, his life finally taken by the leukemia from which he had anointed himself with the tongue-in-cheek nickname “Cool Hand Leuk” (other nicknames included “Chicago Shorty” and “The Little Prince”). He was only 36. Just four days after Goodman's death, his beloved Chicago Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title in the National League for the first time ever, earning them their first post-season appearance since 1945, three years before Goodman's birth. Eight days later, on October 2, the Cubs played their first post-season game since the 1945 World Series. Goodman had been asked to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before it; Jimmy Buffett filled in, and dedicated the song to Goodman. In April 1988, some of Goodman's ashes were scattered at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.[2] He was survived by his wife and three daughters.[3]


In 2006, Goodman's daughter, Rosanna, issued My Old Man, an album of a variety of artists covering her father's songs.

Interest in Goodman's career had a resurgence in 2007 with the publication of a massive biography by Clay Eals, Steve Goodman: Facing the Music. The same year, the Chicago Cubs began playing Goodman's 1984 song "Go, Cubs, Go" after each home game win. When the Cubs made it to the playoffs, interest in the song and Goodman resulted in several newspaper articles about Goodman. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn declared October 5, 2007 Steve Goodman Day in the state.



Date Title Label Number Comments
1970Gathering at the Earl of Old TownDunwich670Various artists including Goodman, Jim Post, Ed Holstein, Fred Holstein, Ginni Clemmens
1971Steve GoodmanBuddahBDS-5096
1972Somebody Else's TroublesBuddahBDS-5121
1975Jessie's Jig and Other FavoritesAsylum7E-1037
1976Words We Can Dance ToAsylum7E-1061
1977Say It In PrivateAsylum7E-1118
1979High and OutsideAsylum6E-174
1980Hot SpotAsylum6E-297
1983Artistic HairRed PajamasRPJ-001Live
1984Affordable ArtRed PajamasRPJ-002
Santa Ana WindsRed PajamasRPJ-003First posthumous release
1987Unfinished BusinessRed PajamasRPJ-005Second posthumous release, Grammy award
1996The Easter TapesRed PajamasRPJ-00918 live cuts from WNEW-FM 1970's broadcasts, liner notes by host Vin Scelsa
2000Live WireRed PajamasRPJ-015Live at Bayou Theater, early 1980s
2006Live at the Earl of Old TownRed PajamasRPJ-017Live, August 1978


Date Title Label Number Comments
1976The Essential Steve GoodmanBuddah BDS-5665-22 LP compilation, 20 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
1988The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume OneRed PajamasRPJ-006Compilation
The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume TwoRed PajamasRPJ-007Compilation
1989City of New OrleansPair Records (Buddha)[4]PCD-2-1233Single CD compilation, 19 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
The Original Steve GoodmanSpecial Music (Buddha)[4]SCD-4923Compilation, 8 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
1994No Big Surprise - The Steve Goodman AnthologyRed PajamasRPJ-0082 CD compilation (1 studio, 1 live)
2008The Baseball SinglesRed PajamasRPJ-018Compilation EP with 4 baseball-themed cuts


Date Title Label Number Formats Comments
2003Steve Goodman: Live From Austin City LimitsRed PajamasRPJ-500VHS, DVD 1977 & 1982 live shows with John Prine and Jethro Burns, plus interviews


  1. The Steve Goodman Backpage
  2. Eals, 725-6.
  3. Berkshires Week
  4. 4.0 4.1 The spelling of Buddah Records changed to "Buddha" around this time

Further reading

External links

fi:Steve Goodman

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