Born this day in 1948, today would have been Steve Goodman's 61st birthday.
Steve was a singer songwriter from Chicago who's most famous song was "The City of New Orleans", a huge hit for Arlo Guthrie. His own stage style was an exuberant ball of energy, who's spontaneity and flare with a guitar (almost an extension of his own body) could electrify an audience to a fever pitch and leave them happy, exhausted and with a satisfied grin...a refractory state very close to post-orgasmic. In the 1970's he would be the opening act for people like Kris Kristofferson in his rock & roll/country/folk/sex symbol heyday and Steve Martin in his monster "wild & crazy" height doing stadium shows. Kristofferson playfully says he eventually stopped hiring Steve because he got tired of reading reviews like, "Kristofferson's show was OK...but MAN, that Steve Goodman is GREAT!".
I'm no idiot, so I'm giving you me singing a Steve Goodman song before I show you Steve himself. I ain't gonna follow him. A smart man wouldn't even put himself in the same post as Steve. OK...maybe I AM an idiot...but, hell, it's my blog.
Here's Steve showing us what a guitar is for. An old song made famous by Al Jolson.
Steve wrote all kinds of songs. Funny songs, sad songs, poignant songs, tragic songs, happy songs. Folk, Country, Blues, Jazz songs. Songs about himself and songs about all of us.
There was always something lacking for me in his studio albums. Too '70's singer-songwriter-overproduced-treacly-sugary-sweet sounding for my ear...but his live stuff...Wow. Always great.
Awwwww hell...here's another...after all, it's his birthday.
Steve was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 11 years old and battled it all his life. He nicknamed himself "Cool Hand Leuk". Another life-long battle was that he was a Chicago Cubs fan. He even wrote the song, "Go, Cubs, Go" which they still play at the end of winning games and that the entire town of Chicago loves to sing along with.
The Cubs were last in the World Series in 1945, three years before Steve was born and in 1984 they made it into the pennant race. They played their first post-season game in 39 years.
Steve was supposed to sing the National Anthem at that game, but he died 8 days before it happened.
He gave them a better song though.
Steve's ashes were sprinkled over Wrigley Field.
Steve was 36 years old when he died. But he packed so much energy, enthusiasm for life and music and smiles on other peoples faces into that short span, you'd need the "jaws of life" to pry it all back out.
We should all try and be this excited and happy about something for just one day.
Let's try it. It would be a good tribute to Steve.
Worst case is, you had a good time for a bit.
Steve met John Prine way back about 1970 in "The Earl of Old Town" in Chicago and they became the tightest of friends from then on. They'd often write and perform together. John Prine describes Steve Goodman as "The guy who makes fun of my guitar playing to my face and brags about my songwriting behind my back.".
A song they'd often do together is John Prine's "Souvenirs" and John still does this to this day, dedicating it to Steve. He often says that "Steve had a way of playing this with me that made it sound like I was playing all the good parts.". The best way to close this is with...
P.S. Check out an addendum to this post here!