I've written for a long while about one of my very favorite artists, singer-songwriter. He was hugely popular in his hometown of Chicago, perhaps the top of the close-knit pack of John Prine and Bonnie Koloc, as well as Ed Holstein and Fred Hostein and others. He had a little bit of national popularity, but nothing compared to Prine who was the only one who really broke out. However, he did have success with others recording some of his songs -- most notably, of course, massive success with Arlo Guthrie's recording of Goodman's "City of New Orleans" (which Willie Nelson later recorded which won a posthumous Grammy for Steve Goodman). And he also had a big country hit with David Allen Coe's recording of "You Never Even Call Me By My Name."
I've posted a whole bunch of videos of Steve Goodman, but always note how none of them do the fellow justice. Because as wonderful as his songs are, and as good the videos, they just don't get across what Steve Goodman was like in concert. Even the videos in concert aren't enough because they're just clips of the songs. He had such vibrant, joyful enthusiasm performing that it was so infectious that audiences could help get enthralled.
I've told the story a couple times (including part of the tale a few weeks ago) of going to see Steve Martin at the 5,000-seat Universal Amphitheater when Goodman was the opening act at the peak of Martin's stand-up fame. And all the maniacal fans wanted was their hero Steve Martin. And this cherubic little performer walked out first and took over the crowd. Late in his set, a guy sitting in the row ahead of me whipped around, having heard me talk about Steve Goodman before the show began, and screamed out wide-eyed, "WHO IS THIS GUY???!!! HE'S AMAZING!!!!!"
He was indeed amazing. I got to see him in concert three times, and even briefly met him once -- at (of course) a baseball game with the Chicago Cubs (he was a massive Cubs fan, and one of his huge favorites in Chicago was his song "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request") when the team was in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers. I was with my friend Patrick Goldstein, who had written about music extensively, beginning in Chicago, so he know "Stevie" well, and when Goodman saw Patrick in the grandstands, he came over.
Unfortunately, he died very young, in his late 30s. He had leukemia, and for a long time it had gone into remission. It was a well-kept secret (I only learned about it when I worked for the Ravinia Music Festival, and Goodman was performing there), and people thought he might have beaten it, but alas.
There's been a nice post-script to his career, by the way. Years ago, in 1984, he wrote a sort of jingle for the Cubs' radio broadcasts on WGN, and over 20 years later, in 2007, when the team was having a rare good season and actually making a push for the post-season, some wise person with the Cubs remembered that song, "Go, Cubs, Go!", and played it after a game. The crowd went wild, and the team still plays it after every game the Cubs win. Most fans don't leave Wrigley Field until they've sun ago. (If you're interested, I wrote the full story of this for the Huffington Post three years ago and included a video of 30,000 people singing along here.)
But even that song, and all the other I've mentioned here just don't do justice to Steve Goodman performing a full concert. Which is the whole point of this -- and the point I always keep mentioning almost every time I post something from Steve Goodman.
I actually a one-freaking-hour video of Steve Goodman in concert.
This is from the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersy, recording in 1976. It's not The Greatest show I've seen by Steve Goodman, but still, man, is it wonderful. And is it remarkable to have.
If you have even the slightest interest in this sort of thing -- block out an hour of your life and enjoy.