Steve Goodman would have turned 65 today, though he died at just 36. Here's his 'City of New Orleans':

and here's his 'My Old Man' (also live, and later):

In that song, he says his father only made it to 58; Steve himself only made it to 36.

Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Goodman, Steve [1948 - 1984]
Steve Goodman was born on Chicago’s North Side on July 25, 1948, the son of a used car salesman, about whom Steve eventually wrote the song ‘My Old Man’. He started learning guitar and writing songs as a young teenager and while at Lake Forest College and the University of Illinois he began to perform in a local club, soon dropping out of college (in 1969) to make music his career. In this he was never financially successful, though he survived early on by writing and singing advertising jingles. He returned to Chicago after a short stint trying his luck in Greenwich Village and in 1971 was recorded performing live on a local album, Gathering at the Earl of Old Town. A support spot to KRIS KRISTOFFERSON that April led to a record deal with Buddah and a first album, Steve Goodman, in 1971. Typically, as soon as Goodman had Kristofferson’s attention, he insisted he go and hear another performer who deserved to be discovered too  -  his friend JOHN PRINE, whose song ‘Donald and Lydia’ Goodman would cover on his own début album.
            That album also offers Goodman’s signature song, ‘City of New Orleans’, which was a hit not for Goodman but for ARLO GUTHRIE  -  and then again, the year of Goodman’s death, a hit for WILLIE NELSON. Also on Steve Goodman’s first album is the good-natured parody of a country song ‘You Never Even Call Me By My Name’ (which Prine had co-written but wouldn’t take credit for); this too would become a hit, a couple of years later and for David Allen Coe.
            All this tells the Goodman story: he wrote songs others had hits with, and he was, as writer and performer too, much admired by big-name fellow performers. He was a fine guitarist (he plays on all Prine’s early albums, just as Prine plays on his) and it’s said that when, in solo performances, he broke a guitar string, which was often, he would keep singing while getting a new string out of his pocket, fitting and tuning it, and would then resume his playing unphased  -  yet he never broke through as a performer himself. 
           In September 1972, with Arif Mardin as producer, Goodman went into Atlantic’s studios in New York to make his second album, Somebody Else’s Troubles, and a single, ‘Election Year Rag’, and for that single, and for the album’s title track, Bob Dylan was a participant. It’s said that Goodman was frustrated at Dylan’s turning up hours and hours late, and perhaps this is why he doesn’t appear on the rest of the material, but he plays piano and sings harmony vocals on these two tracks (both penned by Goodman), along with DAVID BROMBERG on dobro and mandolin, and Prine, among others. The album also included the song that Goodman would come nearest to having a hit with, ‘The Dutchman’  -  the one song he didn’t write. When the album was issued, in early 1973, Dylan was credited as Robert Milkwood Thomas.
            Though Buddah issued The Essential Steve Goodman in 1974 (which also featured ‘Election Year Rag’), it was 1975 before Goodman made his next album, when a label switch gave him greater encouragement and saw an increase in his output. The 1975 album was Jessie’s Jig & Other Favorites; then came Words We Can Dance To (1976), Say It In Private (1977) and High and Outside (1978), which included a duet with then-newcomer Nicolette Larson, and Hot Spot (1980). ‘Chicago Shorty’, as he was dubbed by friends, had also acted as a producer, notably of John Prine’s 1978 album Bruised Orange, and formed his own label, Red Pajama Records, for which he duly recorded Artistic Hair and Affordable Art (both 1983) and his last album, Santa Ana Winds, which reached record stores the day after his death.
            Goodman had been suffering from leukemia all his adult life, and from Chicago made regular and frequent trips to New York for treatment. He moved to the West Coast (to Seal Beach, just below Long Beach, in Southern California) at the beginning of the 1980s, and received treatment in Seattle. The Artistic Hair album cover depicted him standing in front of a hairdressing salon of that name, his own head bald from the effects of chemotherapy. On August 31, 1984 underwent a bone marrow transpant. Twenty days later he died of the liver and kidney failure brought on by his leukemia in hospital in Seattle. He was 36.

[Steve Goodman: ‘Eight Ball’, ‘Chicago Bust Rag’ & ‘City of New Orleans’, Chicago 1970-71, on Various Artists, Gathering at the Earl of Old Town, Dunwich 670, Chicago, 1971, CD-reissued Mountain Railroad, US, 1989; Steve Goodman, NY, 1971, Buddah BDS-5096, US, 1971-2; Somebody Else’s Troubles, NY, Sep 1972, Buddah BDS-5121, US, 1973; ‘Election Year Rag’, Buddah BDA-326, 1973; Artistic Hair, Red Pajama 001, US, 1983; Affordable Art, Red Pajama 002, 1983; Santa Ana Winds, Red Pajama 003, 1984. Many posthumous recordings have been issued, and CD-reissues of the original LPs, some remastered and with extra tracks. There is also a video, Steve Goodman Live From Austin City Limits…And More!, including Prine, Guthrie & Kristofferson, nia, US, 2003.]


  1. Steve (Hothead) Nelson25 July, 2013

    Of all the great train songs out there, this is surely the greatest.

  2. Anonymous26 July, 2013

    For those interested in learning more about Steve, Clay Eals has written the definitive biography. It's called "Steve Goodman: Facing The Music" and was first published around 2007 and has since been updated. Clay interviewed hundreds of Steve's friends and associates and the first edition is nearly 800 pages long. Studs Terkel wrote the preface and Arlo Guthrie wrote the foreword. The book also comes with a CD of fellow artists performing Steve's songs. You can learn more at www.clayeals.com

  3. Elmer Gantry29 July, 2013

    Speaking of 'late great' was sad to hear of the death of J.J. Cale over the weekend.

    Here is a nice version of his great song, 'Call me the Breeze' - with Eric Calpton:


    1. But I wasn't speaking of 'late great' - just 'late'...

  4. Elmer Gantry29 July, 2013



    Also Clapton is mis-spelled above - although Cale seems to have briefly awakened him from his usual torpor...

  5. Michael:
    Great to see your kind Outtakes remembrance of Steve Goodman on what would have been his 65th birthday. Goodman often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music," which a commenter mentioned. The book delves deeply into the genesis and effects of many of his songs, including "City of New Orleans" and "My Old Man." Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, whom you mentioned, are key sources among my 1,100 interviewees. You can find out more at my Internet site (below). The book's first and second printing sold out, and an updated third printing is available. It won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography. If you're not already familiar with the book, I hope you find it of interest. 'Nuff said.

    Clay Eals
    Seattle, WA

  6. Elmer Gantry31 July, 2013


    Would add here that one of my favourite Steve Goodman performances is the version that he and John Prine did of Prine's song 'Souvenirs'...

    He also produced what is one of Prine's best albums (excepting, of course, his peerless first album) - 'Brused Orange'.

    With regard to JJ Cale, was surprised to find how few direct connections with Bob there appear to be...