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?"
Released 1971
Format 7"
Recorded 1971
Genre Folk
Length 3:52
Label Buddah
Writer(s) Steve Goodman
Producer(s) Kris Kristofferson, Norbert Putnam

"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. The song has been recorded by numerous artists both in the US and Europe, including two major hit versions: an easy listening version by Arlo Guthrie in 1972, and a country version by Willie Nelson in 1985.

Arlo Guthrie version[edit]

"The City of New Orleans"
Single by Arlo Guthrie
from the album Hobo's Lullaby
B-side "Days Are Short"
Released 1972
Format 7"
Recorded 1972
Genre Folk
Length 4:31
Label Reprise
Writer(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 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, reaching #4 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and #18 on the Hot 100 chart; it would prove to 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 positions[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 18
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening[1] 4

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"
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[2] 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 109. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 245. 

External links[edit]