A few weeks back, I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Jesse Dukes, a radio producer for the well-regarded WBEZ in Chicago, one of the first charter stations for National Public Radio. He was working on a sort of documentary story about the history of "Go Cubs, Go," and had come across my article. We set up a time for a phone interview, and later spoke for about 15 minutes or so.
None of the interview got included in the finished product, but that's fine because he also spoke to people who knew a lot more of the story than I did, notably author Clay Eals, who wrote the definitive 778-page biography on Steve Goodman (that I wrote about here after he contacted me about my original article) and the producer at WGN radio who actually came up with the idea for Goodman to write the song for the baseball broadcasts, . And the finished show has now aired. It was made for WBEZ's podcast, Curious City, and is called "The Man and the Music Behind the Baseball Ballad 'Go Cubs, Go.'"
(Very thoughtfully, Jesse Dukes does give me a totally unnecessary, but appreciated acknowledgement at the end of the broadcast.)
I thought that Dukes did a very nice job with his entertaining and substantive report -- which runs for an enjoyable 20 minutes.. And as far as I can tell from what I know, he got the story pretty close to right. (I think WGN ended up using the song before the game, not just as a bumper between innings, as the piece says.) I do feel that it starts a bit unfocused and rambling as he talks with the Curious City host, who seems not to know much on the subject. (That's not a criticism of her, just a description.) But a few minutes in, the story kicks in, and it's flies by from then on. The conversation between the two ends up adding a personal quality to it all.
Here are a few additional, albeit lengthy thoughts about the broadcast before we get to the show itself:
When Clay Eals mentions Steve Goodman in high school, what got cut from the report is that one of his Class of 1965 classmates was...Hillary Clinton! She's said that they weren't friends but she definitely knew who he was.
One thing I don't agree with Clay Eals about is his theory on why Steven Goodman didn't break out like John Prine. It's not because he was too nice. He was nice -- as the legendary story Eals tells shows -- but a tough guy, very determined, very driven especially knowing the leukemia life-sentence he was facing. He didn't have time to screw around and just "be nice." (All of which does comes across very clearly in Eals' book.) From what I know working in the entertainment industry, executives like things that are simple, easy to grasp so you can identify who someone is in one quick look. They like stories that can be described in "Give it to me in one sentence." They like someone who is a country singer -- or a folk singer -- or a rock musician. But Steve Goodman was none of those, he was spread all over the place: he has songs that are folk, country, comedy, standard ballads, jazz and rock. I just think record producers and radio stations didn't have any idea what to do with him and how to market him.
I thought it was very touching that host/producer Dukes got emotional at the end -- because it is an emotional story. But the reason why I think the story of "Go Cubs, Go" is a "happy" ending story to Steve Goodman's life, different from what was discussed. Most entertainers, and perhaps especially singers, get forgotten once their time on the charts, writing and performing passes. And by all rights, as great as Steve Goodman was, he was really on the verge of being forgotten by the general public (though not remotely his fans). But "Go Cubs, Go," not only kept him remembered, but I think also ended up bringing up new fans who wanted to look up who this guy was. And that's a joyous ending.
Again, it's a very nice piece and well-worth listening to. The song has a wonderful story behind it, not to mention a wonderful singer-songwriter, and it's told me. Unfortunately, I can't embed it here, but you can get to it by clicking this link.
And for those who don't know the song, especially how it's sung with home fans at Wrigley Field after a win, here it is after Game 5 of the World Series in 2016 which the Cubs won, sending the Series back to Cleveland -- where the Cubs won the final two games to win their first World Series in 108 years. Which is why the 41,000+ plus fans singing along with the recording of Steve Goodman are so delirious.