City of New Orleans (song)

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"City of New Orleans"
Single by Steve Goodman
from the album Steve Goodman
Released 1971
Format 45
Genre Folk
Writer(s) Steve Goodman

"City of New Orleans" is a folk song written by Steve Goodman (and first recorded for Goodman's self-titled 1971 album), describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad's City of New Orleans in bittersweet and nostalgic terms. Goodman got the idea while traveling on the Illinois Central line for a visit to his wife's family. While at the Quiet Knight bar in Chicago, Goodman saw Arlo Guthrie, and asked to be allowed to play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed, on the condition that if Goodman would buy him a beer, Guthrie would listen to him play for as long as it took to drink the beer. Goodman played "City of New Orleans," which Guthrie liked enough that he asked to record it. The song was a hit for Guthrie on his 1972 album Hobo's Lullaby, and is now more closely associated with him, although Goodman performed it until his death in 1984. The song has been recorded by numerous artists both in the US and Europe.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Charts 18

Willie Nelson version[edit]

"City of New Orleans"
Single by Willie Nelson
from the album City of New Orleans
Released July 1984
Format 7"
Recorded October 1983
Genre Country
Length 4:52
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Steve Goodman
Producer(s) Chips Moman
Willie Nelson singles chronology
"To All the Girls I've Loved Before"
"City of New Orleans"
"Seven Spanish Angels"

Steve Goodman won a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song at the 27th Grammy Awards in 1985 for Willie Nelson's version, which was included on his 1984 album of the same name. It reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the United States[1] and the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1984) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary Tracks 30
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 3
Preceded by
"If You're Gonna Play in Texas
(You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
by Alabama
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

November 3, 1984
Succeeded by
"I've Been Around Enough to Know"
by John Schneider
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

November 10, 1984


John Denver included a cover on the 1971 album Aerie. Johnny Cash, with June Carter Cash, included a cover on the 1973 album Johnny Cash and His Woman. Sammi Smith performed the song on the January 1, 1973, episode of Hee Haw. Lynn Anderson included a cover on her 1973 album "Keep Me in Mind." Judy Collins included a version on her 1975 album Judith. Other artists who have recorded the song include The Limeliters, Willie Nelson, Randy Scruggs, The Seldom Scene, Sammi Smith, and Hank Snow.[2]

Arlo Guthrie has also recorded a polka version. In September 2005, Jimmy Buffett performed the song at Wrigley Field as a tribute to Hurricane Katrina victims. It was the first concert at Wrigley not tied to a baseball game. In October 2006, guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed the song during the band's set at the Voodoo Music Festival in New Orleans. Allen Toussaint covered this song in his 2010 tour, notably at the Festival international d’été de Québec in Quebec City.

Foreign language versions[edit]

  • French: In 1972, American singer Joe Dassin recorded a French version, "Salut les Amoureux" (Hello Lovers), re-using the melody but changing the lyrics completely. Dassin sings the last line of the chorus a fourth lower than the original on a conventional IV-V-I chord progression.
  • Dutch: singer Gerard Cox recorded a version with summer-themed lyrics under the title "′t Is weer voorbij, die mooie zomer." He had a number-one hit in 1973 in his home country.
  • German: There are several German versions, the most prominent recorded by Rudi Carrell. The Dutch singer had a hit in Germany with Wann wird's mal wieder richtig Sommer? ("When is summer coming finally?") in 1975.
  • Hebrew: Yoram Gaon recorded a Hebrew version in the seventies called "Hello Wonderful Country". The lyrics, written by Ilan Goldhirsch, describe the beauty of Israel.
  • Finnish: Juha Vainio wrote Finnish lyrics under the title "Hyvää huomenta Suomi" ("Good morning Finland"), which was a domestic hit for the band Karma in 1976 and Matti Esko in 1989.
  • Norwegian folk singer Øystein Sunde recorded a version, entitled "Liten Og Grønn" ("Tiny and Green") for his 1981 album Barkebille Boogie. The song is about the life of a Widerøe Twin Otter airplane.
  • Čikāgas piecīši recorded a Latvian version, Pazudušais dēls.
  • Icelandic singer Björgvin Halldórsson recorded a version with his band Brimkló for the 1976 album Rock 'n' roll, öll mín bestu ár, but the Icelandic lyrics, "Síðasta sjóferðin", were written by Þorsteinn Eggertsson.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 245. 
  2. ^ "City of New Orleans". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 

External links[edit]