City of New Orleans (song)

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"City of New Orleans"
Single by Steve Goodman
from the album Steve Goodman
B-side"Would You Like to Learn to Dance?"
GenreFolk, Country
Songwriter(s)Steve Goodman
Producer(s)Kris Kristofferson, Norbert Putnam

"City of New Orleans" is a country 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. The song has been recorded by numerous artists both in the US and Europe, including two major hit versions: first by Arlo Guthrie in 1972, and later by Willie Nelson in 1984.

An article in the September 2017 issue of Trains magazine chronicles the writing and recording of the song and includes a biographical sketch of Steve Goodman.[1]

Arlo Guthrie version[edit]

"The City of New Orleans"
The City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie.jpg
Single by Arlo Guthrie
from the album Hobo's Lullaby
B-side"Days Are Short"
ReleasedJuly 1972
Songwriter(s)Steve Goodman
Producer(s)Lenny Waronker, John Pilla

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 bought him a beer, Guthrie would listen to him play for as long as it took to drink the beer.[2] 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, reaching #4 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and #18 on the Hot 100 chart; it would prove to be Guthrie's only top-40 hit and one of only two he would have on the Hot 100 (the other was a severely shortened and rearranged version of his magnum opus "Alice's Restaurant", which hit #97).

Chart performance[edit]

Willie Nelson version[edit]

"City of New Orleans"
Single by Willie Nelson
from the album City of New Orleans
B-side"Why Are You Pickin' on Me"
ReleasedJuly 1984
RecordedOctober 1983
Songwriter(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 Nelson's 1984 album City of New Orleans. It reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the United States[8] and the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1984) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[9] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[10] 30
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 3

Other versions[edit]

Allen Toussaint, who was born in New Orleans in 1938 and is credited with writing a large number of songs about the city, covered the song in concert frequently.

Steve Earle played the song as a tribute to Allen Toussaint at Tipitina's, in New Orleans, after his passing in November 2015.

Hank Snow also recorded the song in 1971, and for the album All About Trains which also includes songs by Jimmie Rodgers, with narration by Jimmy Snow.

Johnny Cash recorded the song on his 1973 album Johnny Cash and His Woman.

Joe Dassin recorded a French cover, titled "Salut les amoureux" ("Hello, lovers").[11]

The progressive bluegrass band The Seldom Scene recorded a version for their album Act I in 1972.

Dutch singer Gerard Cox produced a version called "'t Is weer voorbij die mooie zomer" (The nice summer is over again) in 1973.[citation needed] Based on that version the dutch entertainer Rudi Carrell did a German cover named "Wann wird's mal wieder richtig Sommer" (When will it be real summer again) in 1975. [12]

Jerry Reed recorded a version on his 1975 album, Mind Your Love.

John Denver recorded a version on his album Aerie before Guthrie's version was released. He re-recorded it for his album All Aboard!

Jimmy Buffett recorded two versions for his live album Live At Wrigley Field.

In a Shining Time Station Season 2 episode, Jingle, Jingle, Jingle, The Jukebox Band sing this song to celebrate their promotion of winning the slogan contest.

Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon recorded a Hebrew version by Ilan Goldhirsch, titled "Shalom lakh eretz nehederet".

Punk rock supergroup cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released a version as a single in 2017, after an initial release on the Fat Wreck Chords X-mas Bonus compilation in 2006.

Judy Collins on her album Judith

David Hasselhoff on his album Sings America (album).

Chet Atkins included an all-instrumental version on his album "Superpickers."

The Norwegian band Vazelina Bilopphøggers released a Norwegian version titled "Hei Gamle Valdresfjell" on their 1987 album Gå For Gull. It also describes a train journey.

Norwegian artist Øystein Sunde released a Norwegian version titled "Liten og Grønn" on his 1981 album Barkebille Boogie. It describes a Twin Otter flying from Mo i Rana.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sanders, Craig. "Writing of 'City of New Orleans'". Trains 77(9):34-39.
  2. ^ Central, Spotlight (15 November 2016). ""Running Down the Road" Arlo Guthrie LIVE! at The Grunin Center". Medium. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  4. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  5. ^ "Arlo Guthrie Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 109.
  7. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 245.
  9. ^ "Willie Nelson Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  10. ^ "Willie Nelson Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  11. ^ "Track of the Day: 'Salut Les Amoureux' by Joe Dassin". The Atlantic. 2016-10-22. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  12. ^ "List of covers of City of New Orleans".

External links[edit]