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.

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, and is now more closely associated with him, although Goodman continued to perform it until his death in 1984.

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


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. Lizzie West included a cover of the song, featuring The White Buffalo, on her 2006 album, I Pledge Allegiance to Myself. Other artists who have recorded the song include The Limeliters, Willie Nelson, Randy Scruggs, The Seldom Scene, Sammi Smith, and Hank Snow.[3] Arlo Guthrie has also recorded a polka version.

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. Damien Poyard recorded this version on his 2015 CD "Un parfum de folie" (A scent of madness).
  • 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 will there be a real summer again?") in 1975.
  • Hebrew: Yoram Gaon recorded a Hebrew version in the seventies called "Hello Wonderful Country" (שלום לך ארץ נהדרת). 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. The lyrics describe a semi-trailer truck driver moving cargo over night to his destination.
  • 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.

Slovenian versin is covered by music artist Tomaž Domicelj. The song title is Southbound Train (vlak na jug)released on his LP vinil album 1979, called 48-referring to his birth date. The song was very popular in the former Jugoslavia.

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. 
  3. ^ "City of New Orleans". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 

External links[edit]