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Steve Goodman: “City of New Orleans” and “Talk Backwards”

Here is a guest post from my cousin Ed:

Steve Goodman was a very talented songwriter who wrote a number of songs with which we’re familiar.  Above is a young Steve Goodman performing the probably the most well known of the batch — “The City of New Orleans” — which was written on a train of the same name. He noted:

“I looked out the window and I wrote down some stuff and it rhymed. It didn’t take too much more than that – about a half an hour.  Sometimes you get visited by songs.  You don’t have too much to do with them – they just show up.”  It was the song played for the astronauts on Apollo 11 to wake them every morning.

Goodman created his own big break:

Seeing Arlo Guthrie in a bar, Goodman asked to be allowed to play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed on the condition that Goodman buy him a beer first; Goodman played “City of New Orleans” which Guthrie liked enough that he asked for the right to record it. Guthrie’s version of the song became a hit in 1972, and provided Goodman with enough financial success to make his music a full-time career. The song would become an American standard, covered by many other musicians including Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, and Willie Nelson.

Steve was a big Cubs fan and he wrote songs about that.

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.