Steve Goodman: Facing the Music
Implicit in Steve Goodman's life is the powerful notion that music can change individuals and the world and it doesn't stop when we die. As singer/songwriter Brian Gill phrases it, Steve's "song ain't over yet."
In tune with that notion, this biography would not seem complete without a CD that presents a hefty sampling of songs written after Steve's death that pay tribute to him or mention him significantly.
When I set out in the late 1990s to research and write this book, I had no vision for such a musical appendage. But as I interviewed sources and was referred repeatedly to others, gradually the existence of these compositions born independently of each other penetrated my consciousness. Somewhere along the way, the concept for the CD was born. My final tally of such tunes is more than two dozen, and I'm overjoyed to include so many of them on the disc affixed to the inside back cover.
The CD, nearly 76 minutes long, provides musical evidence of how Steve's spirit continues to inspire others across three continents in all corners of the United States as well as in Canada, England and Australia. Even more warming, however, is that, following Steve's example, the CD sheds light on deserving artists whose recordings often fall outside the spotlight. With obvious affection for Steve, these musicians donated their tracks to this project. I am grateful beyond words for their generosity.
The songs' styles and tempos range all over the musical map, but they address the common and compelling themes of mortality, loss, grief and, most of all, appreciation for life and the relentless passage of time.
Arranged like one of Steve's concerts (and aided by the expert engineering of Joe Novak), the CD begins with a couple of rousers, then darts between loud and soft, upbeat and somber, riding an arc that finishes with a quiet instrumental so that the crowd can leave for home with a warm glow.
At the end is a spoken-word bonus in which Steve himself weighs in with observations both charming and humble. It's a welcome slice of his personality to savor, both for newcomers and for those who have not heard him speak in far too long. Then again, Steve's own songs "speak" to us every day.
Play the clip of each song by clicking on the note icon to the right of the song title, or play all the clips by clicking on the note icon at the top of this web page. No clip is shown for Track 19, which is available on the CD only. Clips are RealMedia; if you need a player, use the link at the bottom of this page.
This affecting one-man, one-guitar piece is by a
heart-on-sleeve stalwart of the 1970s
The lone contribution by a Canadian resident, this song uses gentle production and a sing-along chorus to turn the specific into the universal.
From the CD, "Skysongs ... A Writer's Collection," 2001, 3FLAM2002.
Jessica Anne Baron,
Though Steve is unnamed, he is this song's sole inspiration. Its powerful metaphor an extinguished star that is still burning applies to everyone. Plaintive piano complements a swirl of voices that dares you not to harmonize.
John Wesley Harding (Wes Stace),
This poignant vision of the author's ritual inspiration appears here in a previously unreleased version.
© 2006 Plangent Visions Music, Inc. (ASCAP). Recorded by Dan D'Elia Nov.
30, 2003, Eckmann Arena,
Fittingly a live recording, this is an aching tale of the
Without naming him, this anthemic song is specific to Steve, particularly its final verse, but it applies to the destiny in all of us including how this biography came to be written and published.
From the CD "Poetic Justice," 1999. © 1985 by Fire of Change Music (ASCAP), © s 1998 by Buddy Mondlock.
This reverent a cappella sequel to Steve's own a cappella "Ballad of Penny Evans" is based on a traditional sea chantey popularized by Lou Killen. Kushner's echoed voice symbolizes the voices that came before.
From the CD entitled "527," © ® Roland Kushner, 2000.
Farrell on vocal and acoustic guitar, Victor Sanders on bass and electric guitar.
In this track recorded the night after Steve's death,
Jaisun's pained voice cries out with hopeful sentiment, backed by the harmony
of Steve's friend Tom Dundee and a barely heard Leilani McCoy.
Technically not a tribute song, this was written the year before Steve "arrived" at the Earl of Old Town. But Steve enshrined it as "Chicago Bust Rag" on the first LP in which he participated ("Gathering at the Earl of Old Town," 1971), so its very presence here constitutes a tribute to Steve. Here is the seldom-heard original version, by the author himself, based on the traditional tune of "Stagger Lee."
This musician's homage to Buddy Holly, John Lennon and Harry
Chapin culminates with a verse about Steve.
From the CD "Just Another Day in Paradox," © Steve Hopkins, MAYDEWS Music, 1999 (BMI).
Words and music by Peter Weisz,
This expertly executed narrative catches Steve at three stops
along his musical journey: the 1972 Cambridge Folk Festival, a 1980 opener for
Steve Martin and in 1983 at the Hummingbird in
This moving tribute starts out 100 years ago, sneaks into the
Steve-inspired verse of "little magician" and then drives home the connection
to Steve with the destination of the Mississippi River, the "City of New
Orleans." Lange is a former
© 2006 Barking Spider Music (BMI), administered by Bug Music, all rights reserved, used by permission.
Reuben "Lounge Lizard" Morgan,
This salute to a long-gone music club in
From the CD "No Worries," 2006.
This epic story song from
Original version on the LP "Picking My Way," 1985, Ragged Records, RAGR003.
A ringing ballad by a longtime Chicago folkie, this mini-biography of a friendship sports a strong narrative, specific references, a driving guitar melody, an emotional vocal and even a couple of jokes.
© Roach-Hound Publishing (BMI).
This ethereal tale poses an answer to the question posed by
Harry Waller's song, and because it is by the same musician who created the
opening track, it fits as the other vocal bookend for the CD. Gill recently
Jay Haynes, piano,
Given most prominence by Steve, this ode to love and aging (by Michael Smith) is lovely in any version, but especially on solo piano. Jay Haynes was the son of a founding family of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, at which Steve starred. Haynes, who recorded this at a family gathering in 1979 before leaving for Army duty at Fort Dix, committed suicide in 1983, a year before Steve's death. His arrangement, moving gently between 4/4 and 3/4 time, can be enjoyed by those with no knowledge of Steve and the song's lyrical themes. But for those familiar with both Steve and the song, it can wring tears of reconciliation.
Song © Michael Peter Smith,
In April 1975, John Platt (then of WXRT-FM in
Thanks to John Platt, to former WXRT executive vice president
Seth Mason, to WXRT host Lin Brehmer and especially to Michael Damsky, WXRT
vice president and general manager, for his authorization that allowed these
excerpts to be included. Contact: WXRT-FM,