Steve Goodman

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Steve Goodman
Goodman in 1983
Goodman in 1983
Background information
Birth nameSteven Benjamin Goodman
Born(1948-07-25)July 25, 1948
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedSeptember 20, 1984(1984-09-20) (aged 36)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1968–1984
LabelsBuddah, Asylum, Red Pajamas

Steven Benjamin Goodman[1] (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984) was an American folk and country singer-songwriter from Chicago. He wrote the song "City of New Orleans", which was recorded by Arlo Guthrie and many others including John Denver, The Highwaymen, and Judy Collins; in 1985, it afforded Goodman the Grammy songwriter award for best country song, as performed by Willie Nelson. Goodman had a small but dedicated group of fans for his albums and concerts during his lifetime. His most frequently sung song, "Go Cubs Go", is about the Chicago Cubs. Goodman died of leukemia in September 1984.

Personal life[edit]

Goodman was born on Chicago's North Side to a middle-class Jewish family. He began writing and performing songs as a teenager. He graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, in 1965, where he was a classmate of Hillary Clinton. During high school he began his public singing career by leading the junior choir at Temple Beth Israel in Albany Park. In the fall of 1965, he entered the University of Illinois and pledged the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. In college he formed a cover band called The Juicy Fruits, with Goodman on lead guitar, Ron Banyon on rhythm guitar, Steve Hartmann on bass, and Elliot Englehardt on drums. 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 he performed regularly.

Returning to Chicago, he intended to restart his education. In 1968 Goodman began performing at the Earl of Old Town and The Dangling Conversation coffeehouse and attracted a following.[2] By 1969, Goodman was a regular performer in Chicago, while attending Lake Forest College. During this time Goodman supported himself by singing advertising jingles. It was during this time[3] he discovered the cause of his continuous fatigue was actually leukemia. This led him to drop out of school again to pursue his music full-time.

In September 1969 he met Nancy Pruter (sister of R&B writer Robert Pruter), who was attending college and working 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, 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.

Musical career[edit]

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 friend, John Prine.

Later in 1971, Goodman was playing at a Chicago bar called the Quiet Knight as the opening act for Kris Kristofferson. Impressed with Goodman, Kristofferson introduced him to Paul Anka, who brought Goodman to New York to record some demos.[4] This 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 him to let him play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed on the condition that Goodman buy him a beer first; Guthrie would then listen to Goodman for as long as it took Guthrie to drink the beer.[4] Goodman played "City of New Orleans", which Guthrie liked enough that he asked to record it.

Guthrie's version of Goodman's song, about the Illinois Central's City of New Orleans train, became a Top 20 hit in 1972 and provided Goodman with enough financial and artistic success to make music a full-time career. The song would become an American standard, covered by such musicians as Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Chet Atkins, Lynn Anderson, and Willie Nelson, whose recorded version earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy 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" ("And again that beautiful 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. A Hebrew version of the song "Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet" was sung by famous Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon in 1977 and became an immediate hit. Lyrically, the French, Dutch and Hebrew 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.[5] 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 Called Me by My Name", a song which good-naturedly spoofed stereotypical country music lyrics. Prine refused to take a songwriter's credit for the song, although Goodman bought Prine a jukebox as a gift from his publishing royalties. Goodman's name is mentioned in Coe's recording of the song, in a spoken epilogue in which Goodman and Coe discuss the merits of "the perfect country and western song".

Goodman's success as a recording artist was more limited. Although he was known in folk circles as an excellent and influential songwriter,[4] 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.[6]

During the mid and late seventies, Goodman became a regular guest on Easter Sunday 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 Tom Paxton's 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.[7]

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.

Goodman won his second Grammy, for Best Contemporary Folk Album, in 1988 for Unfinished Business, a posthumous album on his Red Pajamas Records label.

Many fans become aware of Goodman's work through other artists such as Jimmy Buffett. Buffett has recorded several of Goodman's songs, including "This Hotel Room," "Banana Republics" and "California Promises", as well as songs co-written with Buffett: "Door Number Three", "Woman Goin' Crazy on Caroline Street", "Frank and Lola", "It's Midnight and I'm not Famous Yet", and "Where's the Party?".[8] Jackie DeShannon covered Goodman's "Would You Like to Learn to Dance" on her 1972 album, Jackie.


On September 20, 1984, Goodman died of leukemia at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.[9] 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 years old.

Four days after Goodman's death, the Chicago Cubs clinched the National League East division title for the first time ever, earning them their first post-season appearance since 1945,[10] three years before Goodman's birth. Eight days later, on October 2, the Cubs played their first post-season game since Game 7 of 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.[11] Since the late 2000s, at the conclusion of every home game win, the Cubs play (and fans sing) "Go, Cubs, Go", a song Goodman wrote for his beloved team.

In April 1988, some of Goodman's ashes were scattered at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.[12]

Goodman's posthumously released album, Santa Ana Winds, included a tribute to the recently deceased Carl Martin, "You Better Get It While You Can (The Ballad of Carl Martin)", celebrating the joy both found in their music, and a refrain of, "From the cradle to the crypt, Is a mighty short trip. So you better get it while you can".[13]

Goodman was survived by his wife and three daughters.[14]


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 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 him. 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.[15]



Date Title Label Number Comments
1970 Gathering at the Earl of Old Town Dunwich 670 Various artists including Goodman, Jim Post, Ed Holstein, Fred Holstein, Ginni Clemmens
1971 Steve Goodman Buddah BDS-5096
1972 Somebody Else's Troubles Buddah BDS-5121
1975 Jessie's Jig & 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
1980 Hot Spot Asylum 6E-297
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
2013 Don't Blame Me Red Pajamas RPJ-019 Live, April 1, 1973, Chicago
2020 Live '69 Omnivore OV-369 Live, November 10, 1969, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
2021 It Sure Looked Good on Paper Omnivore OV-413 20 previously unreleased solo and full band studio demos

Compilation albums[edit]

Date Title Label Number Comments
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)[16] PCD-2-1233 Single CD compilation, 19 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
The Original Steve Goodman Special Music (Buddha)[16] 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


Date Title Label Number Formats Comments
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


  1. ^ Eals, Clay (2007). Steve Goodman: Facing the Music. Toronto: ECW. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-55022-732-1.
  2. ^ Harlan Draeger (September 22, 1984). "Steve Goodman Obituary". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on July 22, 2005. Retrieved December 12, 2005.
  3. ^ Browne, David (July 19, 2019). "Looking Back on John Prine Buddy Steve Goodman". Rolling Stone.
  4. ^ a b c "John, Arlo, Kris And Others Discuss Steve Goodman". kevin46036. Archived from the original on October 4, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  5. ^ "Steve Goodman Concert". Wolfgang's Vault. March 30, 1977. Archived from the original on March 26, 2010. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
  6. ^ "Steve Goodman, and the Surprising Story of "Go, Cubs, Go" | Robert J. Elisberg". September 2, 2008. Archived from the original on April 17, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  7. ^ Eals, 558–59
  8. ^ "Buffett/Goodman Connection".
  9. ^ Van Matre, Lynn (September 21, 1984). "Songwriter Steve Goodman; a Chicago gift to folk music". Chicago Tribune. p. 37. Retrieved June 11, 2021 – via
  10. ^ "Cubs Clinch NL East Crown: First Title Since 1945". The Herald-Palladium. St. Joseph, Michigan. AP. September 25, 1984. p. 14. Retrieved June 11, 2021 – via
  11. ^ "Loose Lips (column)". Philadelphia Daily News. October 3, 1984. p. 44. Retrieved June 11, 2021 – via
  12. ^ Eals, 725-6.
  13. ^ "Steve Goodman – You Better Get It While You Can (The Ballad of Carl Martin)".
  14. ^ "Berkshires Week". Berkshires Week. January 23, 2002. Archived from the original on August 23, 2006. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  15. ^ Skiba, Katherine (August 3, 2010). "Obama signs law renaming post office after singer Steve Goodman". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 21, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2010.
  16. ^ a b The spelling of Buddah Records changed to "Buddha" around this time

Further reading[edit]

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