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Steven Benjamin Goodman (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984) — known as Steve Goodman — was an American folk music singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia while attending college, and he set out to make the most of the time he had left to write music. A prolific writer, Goodman is best known for penning "City of New Orleans," a song made popular by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson, for which Goodman won his first Grammy Award posthumously in 1985, with a second Grammy awarded to him in 1988 for Unfinished Business. Steven Goodman is survived by his wife and three daughters.
- 2 Musical career
- 3 Death
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Discography
- 6 Notes
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
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, where he was a classmate of Hillary Rodham Clinton. 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 the early spring of 1967 Goodman went to New York, staying for a month in a Greenwich Village brownstone across the street from the Cafe Wha? where Goodman performed regularly during his brief stay there. Returning to Chicago he intended to restart his education but he dropped out again to pursue his musical dream full-time after discovering the cause of his continuous fatigue was actually leukemia, the disease that would be present during the entirety of his recording career, until his death in 1984. In 1968 Goodman began performing at the Earl of Old Town in Chicago and attracted a following. By 1969, Goodman was a regular performer in Chicago, while attending Lake Forest College. During this time Goodman supported himself by singing advertising jingles.
In September 1969 he met Nancy Pruter (sister of R&B writer Robert 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.
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. Barry McGuire, however, has told concert-goers recently that he was present at that meeting and it occurred at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, according to San Diego Arlophile Rodger Hartnett.
Guthrie's version of Goodman's 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, Chet Atkins 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 1973. A Dutch singer, Gerard Cox, heard the French version while on holiday and translated it into Dutch, titled "'t Is Weer Voorbij Die Mooie Zomer" ("The summer has come to an end"). It reached number one on the Dutch Top 40 in December 1973 and has become a classic which is still played on Dutch radio. Lyrically, the French and Dutch versions bear no resemblance to Goodman's original lyrics. According to Goodman, the song was inspired by a train trip he and his wife took from Chicago to Mattoon, Illinois. According to the liner notes on the Steve Goodman anthology " No Big Surprise " ... " City of New Orleans " was written while on the campaign trail with Senator Edmund Muskie.
In 1974, singer David Allan Coe achieved considerable success on the country charts with Goodman's and John Prine's "You Never Even Call 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. One of Goodman's biggest hits was a song he didn't write – "The Dutchman", written by Michael Peter Smith. He reached a wider audience as the opening act for Steve Martin while Martin was at the height of his stand-up popularity.
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?"
During the fall of 1979, Goodman was hired to write and perform a series of topical songs for National Public Radio. Although Goodman and Jethro Burns recorded eleven songs for the series, only five of them, "The Ballad of Flight 191" about a plane crash, "Daley's Gone", "Unemployed", "The Twentieth Century is Almost Over", and "The Election Year Rag", were used on the air before the series was cancelled.
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.) He wrote "Go, Cubs, Go" out of spite after then GM Dallas Green called "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" too depressing. The Cubs songs grew out of his fanatical devotion to the team, which included many clubhouse and on-field visits with Cubs players. He wrote other songs about Chicago, including "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.
Many fans become aware of Goodman's work through other artists such as Jimmy Buffett. Buffett has recorded several of Goodman's songs, including "Banana Republics" and "Woman Goin' Crazy on Caroline Street".
On September 20, 1984, Goodman died of leukemia at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. He had anointed himself with the tongue-in-cheek nickname “Cool Hand Leuk” (other nicknames included “Chicago Shorty” and “The Little Prince”) during his illness. He was 36.
Four days after Goodman's death, the Chicago Cubs professional baseball team 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. Today, the Chicago Cubs plays "Go, Cubs, Go" at the conclusion of every home game win, a song Goodman wrote for his beloved team.
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. In 2010, Illinois Representative Mike Quigley introduced a bill renaming the Lakeview post office on Irving Park Road in honor of Goodman. The bill was signed by President Barack Obama on August 3, 2010.
|1970||Gathering at the Earl of Old Town||Dunwich||670||Various artists including Goodman, Jim Post, Ed Holstein, Fred Holstein, Ginni Clemmens|
|1972||Somebody Else's Troubles||Buddah||BDS-5121|
|1975||Jessie's Jig and Other Favorites||Asylum||7E-1037|
|1976||Words We Can Dance To||Asylum||7E-1061|
|1977||Say It In Private||Asylum||7E-1118|
|1979||High and Outside||Asylum||6E-174|
|1983||Artistic Hair||Red Pajamas||RPJ-001||Live|
|1984||Affordable Art||Red Pajamas||RPJ-002|
|Santa Ana Winds||Red Pajamas||RPJ-003||First posthumous release|
|1987||Unfinished Business||Red Pajamas||RPJ-005||Second posthumous release, Grammy award|
|1996||The Easter Tapes||Red Pajamas||RPJ-009||18 live cuts from WNEW-FM 1970's broadcasts, liner notes by host Vin Scelsa|
|2000||Live Wire||Red Pajamas||RPJ-015||Live at Bayou Theater, early 1980s|
|2006||Live at the Earl of Old Town||Red Pajamas||RPJ-017||Live, August 1978|
|1976||The Essential Steve Goodman||Buddah||BDS-5665-2||2 LP compilation, 20 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles|
|1988||The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume One||Red Pajamas||RPJ-006||Compilation|
|The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume Two||Red Pajamas||RPJ-007||Compilation|
|1989||City of New Orleans||Pair Records (Buddha)||PCD-2-1233||Single CD compilation, 19 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles|
|The Original Steve Goodman||Special Music (Buddha)||SCD-4923||Compilation, 8 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles|
|1994||No Big Surprise - The Steve Goodman Anthology||Red Pajamas||RPJ-008||2 CD compilation (1 studio, 1 live)|
|2008||The Baseball Singles||Red Pajamas||RPJ-018||Compilation EP with 4 baseball-themed cuts|
|2003||Steve Goodman: Live From Austin City Limits||Red Pajamas||RPJ-500||VHS, DVD||1977 & 1982 live shows with John Prine and Jethro Burns, plus interviews|