Steve Goodman

Last updated

Steve Goodman
19830430 Steve Goodman.gif
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
Labels Buddah, Asylum, Red Pajamas
Associated acts John Prine, Kenneth C. "Jethro" Burns, Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Koloc, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton, David Allan Coe, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson

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 received a Grammy 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 is the Chicago Cubs anthem, "Go Cubs Go". Goodman died of leukemia in September 1984.


Personal life

Born on Chicago's North Side to a middle-class Jewish family, Goodman began writing and performing songs as a teenager, after his family had moved to the near north suburbs. He graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, in 1965, where he was a classmate of Hillary Clinton's. Before that, however, 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, where he, Ron Banyon, and Steve Hartmann formed a popular rock cover band, "The Juicy Fruits". 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 Goodman performed regularly during his brief stay there.

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 in Chicago 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. He dropped out of school again to pursue his musical dream full-time after discovering, in 1969, [3] the cause of his continuous fatigue was actually leukemia, the disease that was present during the entirety of his recording career, until his death in 1984.

In September 1969 he met Nancy Pruter (sister of R&B writer Robert Pruter), who was attending college while supporting herself 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 Nancy, 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

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 good 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] These 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 sit and 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 became a Top-20 hit in 1972 and provided Goodman with enough financial and artistic success to make his music a full-time career. The song, about the Illinois Central's City of New Orleans train, 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 Award 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 Day 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 "Banana Republics", "Door Number Three" and "Woman Goin' Crazy on Caroline Street". [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] His eldest daughter, Jesse, died in 2012.


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 Goodman. 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]



1970Gathering at the Earl of Old Town Dunwich 670Various artists including Goodman, Jim Post, Ed Holstein, Fred Holstein, Ginni Clemmens
1971 Steve Goodman Buddah BDS-5096
1972 Somebody Else's Troubles BuddahBDS-5121
1975 Jessie's Jig & Other Favorites Asylum 7E-1037
1976Words We Can Dance ToAsylum7E-1061
1977Say It in PrivateAsylum7E-1118
1979High and OutsideAsylum6E-174
1980Hot SpotAsylum6E-297
1983Artistic Hair Red Pajamas RPJ-001Live
1984Affordable ArtRed PajamasRPJ-002
Santa Ana WindsRed PajamasRPJ-003First posthumous release
1987Unfinished BusinessRed PajamasRPJ-005Second posthumous release, Grammy award
1996The Easter TapesRed PajamasRPJ-00918 live cuts from WNEW-FM 1970's broadcasts, liner notes by host Vin Scelsa
2000Live WireRed PajamasRPJ-015Live at Bayou Theater, early 1980s
2006Live at the Earl of Old TownRed PajamasRPJ-017Live, August 1978
2013Don't Blame MeRed PajamasRPJ-019Live, April 1, 1973, Chicago
2020Live '69OmnivoreOV-369Live, November 10, 1969, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL

Compilation albums

1976The Essential Steve GoodmanBuddahBDS-5665-22 LP compilation, 20 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
1988The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume OneRed PajamasRPJ-006Compilation
The Best of the Asylum Years, Volume TwoRed PajamasRPJ-007Compilation
1989City of New OrleansPair Records (Buddha) [16] PCD-2-1233Single CD compilation, 19 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
The Original Steve GoodmanSpecial Music (Buddha) [16] SCD-4923Compilation, 8 cuts from Steve Goodman and Somebody Else's Troubles
1994No Big Surprise – The Steve Goodman AnthologyRed PajamasRPJ-0082 CD compilation (1 studio, 1 live)
2008The Baseball SinglesRed PajamasRPJ-018Compilation EP with 4 baseball-themed cuts


2003Steve Goodman: Live From Austin City LimitsRed PajamasRPJ-500VHS, DVD1977 & 1982 live shows with John Prine and Jethro Burns, plus interviews

Related Research Articles

Arlo Guthrie American folk singer

Arlo Davy Guthrie is an American retired folk singer-songwriter. He is known for singing songs of protest against social injustice, and storytelling while performing songs, following the tradition of his father Woody Guthrie. Guthrie's best-known work is his debut piece, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", a satirical talking blues song about 18 minutes in length that has since become a Thanksgiving anthem. His only top-40 hit was a cover of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans". His song "Massachusetts" was named the official folk song of the state, in which he has lived most of his adult life. Guthrie has also made several acting appearances. He is the father of four children, who have also had careers as musicians.

Woody Guthrie American singer-songwriter and folk musician

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter, and one of the most significant figures in American folk music. His work focused on themes of American socialism and anti-fascism. His music includes songs such as "This Land Is Your Land", written to oppose the American exceptionalist song "God Bless America", and has inspired several generations both politically and musically.

John Prine American singer-songwriter

John Edward Prine was an American country folk singer-songwriter. He was active as a composer, recording artist, live performer, and occasional actor from the early 1970s until his death, and was known for an often humorous style of original music that has elements of protest and social commentary.

"City of New Orleans" is a country folk song written by Steve Goodman, describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad's City of New Orleans in bittersweet and nostalgic terms.

Bonnie Koloc is an American folk music singer-songwriter, actress, and artist. She was considered one of the three main Illinois-based folk singers in the 1970s, along with Steve Goodman and John Prine forming the "trinity of the Chicago folk scene". Her music continues to be recognized and valued by historians of Chicago folk music as well as by her long standing fan base in that area. But her voice, which may be considered crystalline in its clarity, is remembered as well.

Jim Post Musical artist

Jim Post is an American folk singer-songwriter, composer, playwright and actor. In 1968 his pop song "Reach out of the Darkness" charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks, peaking at number 10.

Tom Dundee

Tom Dundee (1946–2006) was a singer/songwriter born in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

Contemporary folk music

Contemporary folk music refers to a wide variety of genres that emerged in the mid 20th century and afterwards which were associated with traditional folk music. Starting in the mid-20th century a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s. The most common name for this new form of music is also "folk music", but is often called "contemporary folk music" or "folk revival music" to make the distinction. The transition was somewhat centered in the US and is also called the American folk music revival. Fusion genres such as folk rock and others also evolved within this phenomenon. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, it often shares the same English name, performers and venues as traditional folk music; even individual songs may be a blend of the two.

Fred Holstein was an American folk music singer. Holstein was a prominent figure in the Chicago folk music scene in the 1960s through 1980s. He co owned two clubs in the Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was not a songwriter, but his talent for singing with his resonant baritone and arranging was well recognized.

<i>Bruised Orange</i> 1978 studio album by John Prine

Bruised Orange is the fifth album by American folk singer and songwriter John Prine, released in 1978.

<i>Diamonds in the Rough</i> (album) 1972 studio album by John Prine

Diamonds in the Rough is the second studio album by American country-folk singer-songwriter John Prine, released in 1972.

All the Way (Eddie Vedder song) 2008 single by Eddie Vedder

"All the Way" is a song written and performed by Evanston, Illinois native and Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder about the Chicago Cubs. It was first performed in public on August 2, 2007, recorded on August 21, 2008 and August 22, 2008, and released as a single on September 18, 2008.

Go, Cubs, Go 1984 single by Steve Goodman

"Go Cubs Go", "Go, Cubs, Go" or "Go, Cubs, Go!" is a song written by Steve Goodman in 1984. At various times the Goodman version of the song has been the official Chicago Cubs team song and the official Cubs victory song, playing after every home win for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Goodman version of the song is now referred to as the official Chicago Cubs victory song. The Goodman version has been included in both a 1994 Steve Goodman anthology album and a 2008 Cubs songs and sounds album. Following the team's 2016 World Series victory, the song peaked at number 3 on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. An alternate 2008 version by Manic Sewing Circle has also been released.

Oh Boy Records

Oh Boy Records is an independent American record label founded in 1981 by singer John Prine, his manager Al Bunetta, and their friend Dan Einstein. The label has released more than 40 audio and video recordings by singer-songwriters Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Daniel "Slick" Ballinger, Shawn Camp, Dan Reeder, and Todd Snider, along with a dozen reissues of classic country music artists. Oh Boy Records also manages two subsidiary labels, Steve Goodman's Red Pajamas Records and specialty label Blue Plate Music. Oh Boy is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Red Pajamas Records

Red Pajamas Records is an independent American record label. It was founded in 1982 by Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Goodman and his manager Al Bunetta. Between 1983 and his death in 1984, Goodman released two albums on Red Pajamas: Artistic Hair and Affordable Art. Two more, Santa Ana Winds and the Grammy Award-winning Unfinished Business, were released posthumously in 1984 and 1987. Red Pajamas Records operates under the management of Oh Boy Records, which is owned by Goodman's friend John Prine. Red Pajamas releases archival live performances by Goodman, compilations, and reissues of his earlier material. The label has also released three recordings of tribute performances by Goodman's friends.

<i>John Prine Live</i> 1988 live album by John Prine

John Prine Live is a live album by American folk singer and songwriter John Prine, released in 1988. It was originally released as a double-LP.

<i>encores</i> (Jimmy Buffett album) 2010 live album by Jimmy Buffett

encores is a live album by American popular music singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. The set list includes twenty two songs compiled from Buffett's intimate second encores, with which he ends his concerts. All songs are taken from the 2008/2009 tours. Unlike other live albums by Buffett, encores features few standards and Songs You Know by Heart tunes, making the album less mainstream among fans.

Keith Sykes (musician) Musical artist

Keith Sykes is an American singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. More than 100 of Sykes' songs have been recorded by John Prine, Rosanne Cash, The Judds, Jerry Jeff Walker, and George Thorogood, though he may be best known for co-writing "Volcano", the title track of Jimmy Buffett's 1979 album.

<i>Steve Goodman</i> (album) 1971 studio album by Steve Goodman

Steve Goodman is the debut album of singer/songwriter Steve Goodman, released in 1971. It included his most well-known composition "City of New Orleans", first covered by Arlo Guthrie. The album was reissued on CD in 1999 and included two bonus tracks, "Election Year Rag" and "Georgia Rag". The album was a critical success, although a commercial failure.

"A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" is a song written by Steve Goodman in 1981 and first performed by him on a WGN radio show that year. A mock-serious rewrite of "St. James Infirmary Blues", the song tells the story of a Chicago Cubs baseball fan looking back at many frustrating years of following the team. Goodman wrote the song in the spring of 1981, just before that year's Major League Baseball strike interrupted the season. Goodman, a native of Chicago, incorporated a number of specific references to the city, the Cubs, and their baseball stadium, Wrigley Field.


  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. 1 2 3 "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. "Song Lyrics". MetroLyrics. Archived from the original on September 20, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  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. 1 2 The spelling of Buddah Records changed to "Buddha" around this time

Further reading