Steve Goodman - guitar, vocals; Guest: Jim Rothermel - clarinet, recorder, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, recorder
A consummate performer and prolific singer-songwriter with pointed observations about world events and a wicked, politically-charged sense of humor, Steve Goodman had no problem entertaining a crowd for a full hour just by his lonesome. In the grand tradition of such political humorists as Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, and Bill Maher, the Chicago native unleashed his acerbic wit at the Great American Music Hall, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. Like a northern counterpart to Mose Allison, Goodman channels his outrage about injustice, corruption, and the human condition into song, often with the all the subtlety of a sharp stick in the eye. But then he also has the capacity to deliver poignant, melodic gems like "City of New Orleans," his most famous composition and one that became a hit in 1972 for Arlo Guthrie.
Goodman kicks off part two of his December 12, 1979 performance at the Great American Music Hall in classic troubadour fashion with his folky "Somebody Else's Troubles" (title track of his 1973 album on the Buddha label). He follows with a humorous medley of his "Chicken Cordon Blues" (also from Somebody Else's Troubles) and the 1947 novelty song "I Am My Own Grandpa" about a man who, through an unlikely (but legal) combination of marriages, becomes stepfather to his own stepmother and in essence becomes his own grandfather. Then Goodman struts his verbal agility on a spirited rendition of Leroy Van Dyke's country novelty number "The Auctioneer," a 1956 tune that was covered by scores of artists, including Gordon Lightfoot, Mel Tillis, Joan Baez, and Les Paul & Mary Ford.
An accomplished guitarist as well as a witty wordsmith, gifted singer-songwriter and engaging entertainer, Goodman then flashes some impressive chops on a swinging version of the 1936 Fats Waller tune "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," which also features some hot clarinet work by Rothermel. He next covers the humorous "Warm and Free," a tune by cartoonist-author-songwriter Shel Silverstein, who enjoyed a working partnership in the mid '70s with country singer Bobby Bare. The guitar segues neatly from that ditty into his joyful, Dixieland-ish "This Hotel Room" (a clever ditty about finding all the comforts of home on the road which originally appeared on Jessie's Jig and Other Favorites). He drips sarcasm on "You Never Even Call Me By My Name," a biting spoof on stereotypical country lyrics which he co-wrote with John Prine and which scored a hit in 1974 for David Allan Coe. And he concludes his GAMH set on a poignant note with John Prine's gentle, lonely waltz, "Christmas in Prison."
Goodman continued to tour and record for the next few years, though he was fighting leukemia toward the end. He died on September 20, 1984 at age 36, less than five years after this gala performance at the Great American Music Hall.
A lifelong devout fan of the Chicago Cubs, Goodman wrote three songs about his beloved baseball team: "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" (which the Cubs GM Dallas Green deemed "too depressing"), "When the Cubs Go Marching In," and "Go, Cubs, Go" (which has frequently been played on Cubs' broadcasts and at Wrigley Field after Cubs wins.) Four days after Goodman's death, the Chicago Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title in the National League for the first time ever. Eight days later, on October 2, the Cubs played their first post-season game since the 1945 World Series. Goodman had been asked to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the game. Jimmy Buffett filled in, and dedicated the song to Goodman. In April 1988, some of Goodman's ashes were scattered at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
He was survived by his wife and three daughters. In 2006, Goodman's daughter, Rosanna, issued My Old Man, an album of a variety of artists covering her father's songs. The following year saw the release of Clay Eals' biography, Steve Goodman: Facing the Music. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn declared October 5, 2007 Steve Goodman Day in the state. In 2010, Illinois Representative Mike Quigley introduced a bill renaming the Lakeview post office on Irving Park Road in honor of Goodman. (Milkowski)
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