Some Songs by Steve Goodman

Today would have been the 64th birthday of the Chicago singer and songwriter Steve Goodman. Not that we need a reason to spend some time listening to him, but any excuse is good enough to detour into the Goodman archive.

Steve Goodman was born in 1948 and only made it to age 36, but what an amazing accomplishment that was when you consider that he was diagnosed with leukemia at age 20 and fought through the illness and fatigue to make such a lasting impression. It could not have been easy to project the kind of energy and enthusiasm he did through all the pain and discomfort that comes with the disease.

He did it with his pen, writing a song that by now has been in the world longer than he ever was – “The City of New Orleans.” It will still be here after all of us are gone.

Steve Goodman also amazed with his abilities as an interpreter. This is his version of Michael Smith’s song “The Dutchman.” It’s also a treat to watch for the clearly loving and respectful interplay with the great Jethro Burns.

And Steve Goodman wowed us with his dexterity and good humor on old standards you wouldn’t expect a folk singer to attempt.

Steve Goodman was a funny, inspiring and entertaining fellow. And he still is. After they are gone, the world mourns musicians in varying degrees – mostly in proportion to their record sales. I know people who are still broken up about the loss of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Buddy Holly – great talents all. The size of their following doesn’t matter as much as they way they connected – like all music it’s still a matter of individual taste and it becomes a rather senseless exercise to contrast and compare.

But if I could bring back one musician from among the legions who left too soon, I think I’d most enjoy hearing more from Steve Goodman.

You have the power to resurrect the singer of your choice. Who?

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134 thoughts on “Some Songs by Steve Goodman”

    1. I just noticed that at just the right angle, Steve looks amazingly similar to Andy Kaufman, another great in his own right. Only first saw the similarity in a few shots of this video. Wow.

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  1. Good post, Dale. The fate of Elvis is a cautionary tale when we think about singers whose lives we would like to see extended. A great many musicians start in a blaze of glory, then evolve in ways that can be painful to watch. Sometimes I wish Elvis had died as a young man before he became the bloated, sweaty parody of himself, singing Frank Sinatra songs in Las Vegas. He would have been so much more of a romantic figure if he’d flamed out while young, like James Dean.

    That said, the singer whose career seems FAR too short is Eva Cassidy. Many years ago I wrote to Dale and Tom Keith to say that there was a woman who could sing “Over the Rainbow” better than Judy Garland did it. Eva’s early death by cancer was particularly tragic because she was so extremely modest that she thought of herself as an adequate backup singer during most of her short career. It is nice to imagine that a longer career would have allowed her to realize the astonishing depths of her talent, Maybe then she could have emerged from the obscurity of Washington DC nightclubs and performed in more appropriate venues, places where her talent could soar without inhibition.

    Have a lovely day, Baboons.

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    1. Agreed. i was just listening to her the other day and wishing that she was still alive. I love her rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

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  2. nice steve goodman tribute. isnt 64 a magic number since the beatles good old tune. steve goodman a treasure. i always love listening to him, his syncopated phrasing, his marvelous combination of picking and strumming. he is one of those guys where you really wonder where the inner voice he is hearing is coming form. i always love the way he puts it out. its hard and intricate but at the same time its beautiful and poetic and he makes it slide out of his fingers and lips like its done before he gets there and he is just trying to keep up and spit it out before the next gem gets served up.
    i miss lots of musicians, george gershwin, john lennon, kate wolf, eva cassidy, muddy waters, miles davis, frank sinatra, johnny cash, jim morrison, uncle roy orbison, roy rogers, woddy guthrie, but there is something about steve goodman

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  3. Good morning. I do very much wish that Janis Joplin hadn’t passed away so early. I think the one that would top my list is Ray Charles. I can’t think of anybody that sang better than Ray and he could sing all kinds of songs as well as some great ones he wrote himself. Here’s some lyrics from one of his songs:

    Let me tell you ’bout a girl I know
    She is my baby and she lives next door
    Every mornin’ ‘fore the sun comes up
    She brings me coffee in my favorite cup
    That’s why I know, yes, I know
    Hallelujah, I just love her so

    There are some other singers that I think are very great ones, but I will stick with Ray as my top choice.

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  4. George Gershwin wasn’t a singer, but he died way too young, too and it would be fascinating to hear more from him. Stan Rogers left too soon, too.

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  5. Love Steve Goodman also, but I would like to add Kate Wolf to our list. When I was in my late twenties, I often saw her (accompanied by her ace guitarist & mandolinist Nina Gerber) at the tiny Other Cafe in San Francisco’s Cole Valley district. The songs that Kate Wolf wrote captured the heart of the West in a lovely and unique way. Even though it is now many years after her death in 1986 at age 44 and I, as a native of the West, have been exiled to New England for more than 20 years, I return to her songs again & again. I could not find videos of some of my favorites among her faster songs, e.g., Everybody’s Looking for the Same Thing but here’s a link to Redtail Hawk which is one of her slower songs that I like.

    And, while I am at it, I give a lot to bring back the voices of Buddy Spamden, Bud Buck, Bart the Bear & Company. I was just prescient enough to save a handful of Morning Show podcasts from 2008 and I fire one up out when a laugh (or a cry) is needed.

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    1. Hey Westerner – lovely choice! Completely agree about wishing to hear the world of the Late Great Morning Show again….

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  6. That’s the easiest question you’ve ever asked, Dale. Without a doubt, Eva Cassidy. I’ll forever be grateful to you and TK/JEP for that February morning in 1999 (?) when I first heard you play her version of “Over the Rainbow.” That made every cent I’d ever contributed to MPR up to that moment the best investment of my life. Thanks again.

    Chris in Owatonna

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    1. isnt it nice when you find your soulmate like that. i really enjoy eva cassidy too. the orning show did lots of that didt they? how about bringing back jim ed. hes barely been gone long enough to miss him but then again, he sure checks in regularly. heard him again this last weekend in garisons tribute to summer vacations. there was a voice and an artist. he took dales visions and turned them into multi faceted wonders for us all to enjoy. music, maybe not, art voice performer…unmatched

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      1. Thank you for providing the very first LIVE video I’ve ever seen of Eva!! I’ve only seen still pictures of her until this moment. This one triggered a watershed of tears for me just now – I still recall sitting with my brother in his little bungalow and him saying, “You’ll never hear anyone better than this” as he introduced me to Eva for the first time. He was right. Her song, “I Know Him By Heart” haunts me to this day.

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      2. Thanks, VS. Always great to watch this video. I’ve seen it many times over the years, and now have the latest CD which has this performance of OTR. As much as I love the studio version, this one always touches my heart because it’s so intimate and you can see Eva sharing her soul with the audience.

        Chris

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  7. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Busy week here and I am mostly in lurkitude.
    Stan Rogers–went down in a plane sometime in the 80s I think. The Field Behind the Plow.

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    1. Big agreement here on Stan Rogers, someone with towering talent who died much too early. He was terrified by airplanes. There was not an actual plane crash. The plane caught fire and was forced to land. Stan was among the many who died when there was a flash fire in the plane on the ground.

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  8. Ooh, it’s a great music day on the Trail. I was going to say Kate Wolf – thanks, Westerner. Be back later with more, no doubt.

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  9. Morning–

    Nice. Steve Goodman was so cool. Don’t you love the those little dimples when he grins? :-)

    I’ll add to the list Mel Torme’, The Velvet Fog. And Chet Atkins, I never get tired of his stuff.
    And Freddie Mercury of course.

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    1. I will see your Mel Torme and raise you a Judy Garland, they performed together on her Christmas show-he is playing A Christmas Song, and she is sort of singing it-but can’t really remember the words-funny, but tragic when you realize why she probably can’t remember the words, and Mel just keeps playing and hoping to get through it.

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  10. Since I seem to be channelling Batman this week and lurking in the shadows, I’ll come into the light just long enough to say: the legendary Robert Johnson, dead at 27 after recording only a couple dozen songs:

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    1. It’s just hard for me to picture Robert Johnson getting old under any circumstances. He seems fated to die young. Of course, Mick Jagger was sure the Stones would never perform in their geezer years.

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  11. john denver was a favorite. i had a daughter i took to see him a year before he died. we were center stage row 20 getting pillows stacked under the daughter butt so she would be able to see him up there when a guy came and asked us to follow him to 2nd row center. john saved those seats and hand picked the people he wanted to play to.
    we had tickets (still do) to his concert at the orpheum scheduled for a coupel weeks after he died.
    i saw him play warm up for blood sweat and tears when no one knew who he was just as leaving on a jet plane was a hit on the radio and he was introduced as john denver formerly john deutschendorf, of edina minnesota. then i remember seeing him at the guthrie in some excellent concerts where he was recording hoping to make a record. look what i found when i googled sunshine. it really did make me cry there in the dark at the guthrie and again today. i love that music can do that.

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    1. Lovely. My dad didn’t care for John Denver (or Bob Dylan) – he would complain about their nasal singing. But it didn’t stop me from playing all their records (yes, records… remember them?) all the time!

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    2. John Denver was my thought as well, tim.

      He could be funny (Forest Lawn), tear-jerking (For Bobbie) and seemed so much like someone you were sure you knew (Oh God-still have to find that for the s&h to see).

      Did not realize he was from Edina-no wonder I always thought of him as someone I knew.

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        1. His wife, Annie however, was a student at Gustavus Adolphus when they met. He was playing a gig there at the beginning of his career.

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    3. First concert I ever went to was John Denver. He was playing in a little auditorium at UWRF, before he hit it big. He did a wonderful cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Casey’s Last Ride – I still think it’s the best version of that song. YouTube, surprisingly, doesn’t have it.

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  12. Steve Goodman, is one my all time favorites. One song that he wrote “My Old Man” gives me a lump in my throat every time I hear it; don’t know how he got through performing it. And his humous stuff is just hilarious, cracks me up. I’ve heard him live several times, he was a performer I couldn’t get enough of.

    Two other performers that I miss but wouldn’t necessarily resurrect because of the downward spiral their lives were in at the time of their deaths are Sandy Denny and Townes van Zandt. Sandy Dennis was blessed with an incredibly beautiful voice, and van Zandt’s song writing was sublime; really miss them both.

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  13. …and Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. I just learned recently that a personal favorite of mine, Bert Jansch, died last year- not tragically young, but still…

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    1. Nice. I read a biography of Karen Carpenter last year. She started as the drummer for her brother; he was considered the musical prodigy in the family. Big time jealousies and control issues in that family. Sad Story.

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    1. i didnt remember ella was dead. she will live on forever for me
      i laugh at all these guys. i had forgotten john hartford who is a favorite. he roomed next to my brother at the hotel for the chitaqua. brother said he was a real pleasant guy.
      but freddie, mel, vonzandt, billie, bobbie darrin are people i thought of. are there no jim morrison heads or jerry garcia folks? cmon stoners where are you.?..

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      1. tim, are there no jim morrison heads or jerry garcia folks? cmon stoners where are you.?.. I’d have to call my younger brother for advice on that.

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  14. Harry Nilsson. Listened to Linda’s Nilsson CD on the way back from Donna’s, so this is fresh in my min:.

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      1. He probably had the best job in the world: thinking like a child and getting paid for it.
        One of my all time faves as far as TV “cartoons” go, along with Rocky and Bullwinkle and The SImpsons.

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    1. i love harry. his album harry had scads of great tunes and that led me to discover randy newman on an album form the wax museum called nillsen sings newman.
      from harry

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      1. wrong clip. he wrote this one after they turned i guess the lord must be in new york city (they are almost identical ) but the director wanted his way. nice tune but i always felt impressed that he could twist his brain to accomadate the studios and disappointed he didnt get his stuff accepted as he submitted it.

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        1. “Everybody’s Talkin’ is a Fred Neil song. I could never understand why they had Nilsson sing it for the movie.

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  15. Don’t know how many opera lovers there are on the trail, but there are at least two great voices that I would love to resurrect. One is Maria Callas, the other Jussi Bjorling, both had incredible voices and great acting talents as well. How I would have loved seeing either of them perform live.

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  16. I realize the singer in question is just fine, but could we please have Julie Andrews’ voice back?

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    1. Love it! Another amazing voice. Totally love that number. Another that was with us a long time and unequaled in many ways — ETHEL MERMAN! A voice like that deserves all caps!

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  17. Wow – what a great day on the Trail. And a decakilobaboon to boot!

    Thanks everybody for all the great tunes.

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  18. I saw Steve Goodman live five times. Best live performer I ever saw. I was heartbroken when he died.

    No one mentioned Gram Parsons, or Warren Zevon – both worthy of mention. If I had to pick one, though, it would still be Steve Goodman.

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    1. Thank you for that clip, Linda. I too saw him five times, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. He was an amazing performer; had such a unique connection to his audience. To my mind, John Prine is right up there with Steve Goodman as a contender for the best ever live performer I’ve ever seen. Do not miss him when he’s in town.

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  19. Good job today everybody. So many terrific performers!
    When I was working as a stage hand, I stood next to a guy who’s back John Denver touched as John walked off stage…. :-)

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  20. How’s this for a fantasy duet pairing: Steve Goodman and Eva Cassidy? Put them together in a small club somewhere and let them start jamming … mmmmm, could have been spectacular music-making.

    Chris
    (getting too sentimental with all the great artists suggested by the Babooners)

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