I’m not sure where I first heard of Steve Goodman, but it was probably on WNEW-FM radio out of New York in the mid 70s, where he appeared live on the Vin Skelsa show yearly. I liked his original songs, which were folk with a country or blues flavor at times, and often a healthy helping of humor and satire. It wasn’t until he died in 1984 at the age of 36 that I learned of his long battle with leukemia, something that went on behind the scenes through his entire recording career. It’s a sad story, he went too soon. You can read more about it on his Wikipedia entry.
Goodman’s first break was when Arlo Guthrie had a hit with his song about a train, “City of New Orleans.” Goodman himself never had any big hits, but sold enough records to keep him going. There were two records for Buddah, cover of the first self-titled album from 1971 is above. There are a few songs on it I don’t care for, but also classics like “I Don’t Know Where I’m Goin’, But I’m Goin’ Nowhere In A Hurry Blues,” “Mind Your Own Business,” and the aforementioned “City of New Orleans.”
The second Buddah album from 1972 is probably my favorite Goodman record, with many great songs like “Chicken Cordon Bleus,” and “Lincoln Park Pirates,” as well as the title track. Love them all.
With “Jessie’s Jig and Other Favorites,” Goodman moved to the Asylum label for more fine work. I like all of it. Favorites include “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” “Lookin’ For Trouble,” and a great blues synopsis of the book Moby Dick, “Moby Book.”
“Words We Can Dance To” has more gems like “Old Fashioned,” “Between the Lines,” and “The Glory of Love.” Like all these, too.
“Say It In Private” has more great work, including “Video Tape,” “You’re the Girl I Love,” “The Twentieth Century is Almost Over” teamed with friend John Prine, and a moving tribute to his dad, “My Old Man.”
With “High and Outside” in 1979, Goodman seemed to be losing his edge, and there aren’t any songs on this album I love, and a few I don’t care for. Now I can guess that his illness might have been taking a higher toll on his ability to write songs. His 1980 album, “Hot Spot” was one I didn’t care for at all, and it ended his time on Asylum, but Goodman came back with his own label, Red Pyjamas, starting with a live concert release, “Artistic Hair” in 1983. I like it, but since I already have all the songs in studio versions, I don’t have it on my iPod.
“Affordable Art” from 1984 was Steve apparently back in fine form with some great new original songs including “Vegematic,” “Talk Backwards,” and “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” and I like most of the album. Sadly, it was the last to be released before his death.
“Santa Ana Winds” was released posthumously, and while I have it, I don’t like it enough to put it on my iPod. There are several later records released on the Red Pyjamas label I haven’t heard, including “Unfinished Business,” which sounds promising. I’ll have to get it one day. Meanwhile, I have 65 Steve Goodman songs to listen to and add to my iPod mix. If you haven’t heard any of Steve’s music, I suggest you give him a try.