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Steve Goodman: Facing the Music

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?Steve Goodman wrote “Good mornin’ America, how are ya” into the nation’s consciousness, becoming one of the most respected singer/songwriters of the 1970s and early 80s. With warmth and wit, he charmed better-known peers, top critics, and countless fans. Yet this 5-foot-2 troubadour nearly lost his chance at adult life. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 20, Goodman kept it a ?Steve Goodman wrote “Good mornin’ America, how are ya” into the nation’s consciousness, becoming one of the most respected singer/songwriters of the 1970s and early 80s. With warmth and wit, he charmed better-known peers, top critics, and countless fans. Yet this 5-foot-2 troubadour nearly lost his chance at adult life. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 20, Goodman kept it a secret for 16 years as he sang for a generation that assumed it would live forever. This biography scrutinizes a theme that Goodman knew all too well: when death is imminent, we grasp that life is about connecting with others. Goodman’s childhood, the untold full story of “City of New Orleans,” his launching by the unlikely duo of Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka, his teaming with “wild and crazy” Steve Martin for more than 200 shows, his landmark recordings and two Grammy awards all get extensive attention in this biography. The book delves into his personal and professional life, drawing on over 850 original interviews with Goodman’s family, childhood and adult friends, and a diversity of celebrities. “From the cradle to the crypt, it’s a mighty short trip,” Goodman wrote in a song shortly before his 1984 death. This biography verifies that the universality of his work — hilarious, political, romantic, or all three rolled into one — resonates deeply in today’s musical firmament.


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?Steve Goodman wrote “Good mornin’ America, how are ya” into the nation’s consciousness, becoming one of the most respected singer/songwriters of the 1970s and early 80s. With warmth and wit, he charmed better-known peers, top critics, and countless fans. Yet this 5-foot-2 troubadour nearly lost his chance at adult life. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 20, Goodman kept it a ?Steve Goodman wrote “Good mornin’ America, how are ya” into the nation’s consciousness, becoming one of the most respected singer/songwriters of the 1970s and early 80s. With warmth and wit, he charmed better-known peers, top critics, and countless fans. Yet this 5-foot-2 troubadour nearly lost his chance at adult life. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 20, Goodman kept it a secret for 16 years as he sang for a generation that assumed it would live forever. This biography scrutinizes a theme that Goodman knew all too well: when death is imminent, we grasp that life is about connecting with others. Goodman’s childhood, the untold full story of “City of New Orleans,” his launching by the unlikely duo of Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka, his teaming with “wild and crazy” Steve Martin for more than 200 shows, his landmark recordings and two Grammy awards all get extensive attention in this biography. The book delves into his personal and professional life, drawing on over 850 original interviews with Goodman’s family, childhood and adult friends, and a diversity of celebrities. “From the cradle to the crypt, it’s a mighty short trip,” Goodman wrote in a song shortly before his 1984 death. This biography verifies that the universality of his work — hilarious, political, romantic, or all three rolled into one — resonates deeply in today’s musical firmament.

30 review for Steve Goodman: Facing the Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Art

    Another example where I know a few of the musician’s songs but the book intrigued me to the end. This heavy and massive book includes every wisp of a tangential detail to tell the story of Steve Goodman, a baseball-loving singer-songwriter from Chicago who lived with a cancer diagnosis since twenty. He died at thirty-five. Music and Steve’s good-natured cheerfulness, despite his diagnosis, permeate this book. Steve and I grew up in nearby neighborhoods, which also intrigued me. This gigantic boo Another example where I know a few of the musician’s songs but the book intrigued me to the end. This heavy and massive book includes every wisp of a tangential detail to tell the story of Steve Goodman, a baseball-loving singer-songwriter from Chicago who lived with a cancer diagnosis since twenty. He died at thirty-five. Music and Steve’s good-natured cheerfulness, despite his diagnosis, permeate this book. Steve and I grew up in nearby neighborhoods, which also intrigued me. This gigantic book took eight years to research, drawing on a thousand interviews. Steve Goodman, far from a household name, deserves a normal book. But this hefty item runs twice as long as it needs to. Because of his great singing voice as a kid, Steve’s mother hoped that he would become a cantor. In school, he harmonized with classmates on such songs as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” But more than school, Chicago’s radio disc jockeys served as musical pathfinders for Steve. He wrote down the lyrics of silly songs then performed them in talent shows. Steve admired Chuck Berry because his songs told stories. In fall of sixty-one, Steve Goodman connected with a kindred spirit across the street. Sy Gold promoted rock and roll records for Atlantic, Vee-Jay and other labels. Forty-fives filled his trunk. Sy’s job often took him backstage when musicians performed in Chicago. Steve wanted to go along, but his parents would not let him because those people smoked pot. Steve graduated from Maine East High School, winning three of the superlative awards: class wit, best musician and most versatile while tying for best gift of gab and most likely to be remembered. In his early days after school, Steve’s voice and guitar skills earned him a spot recording jingles for such advertisers as Pabst and Schlitz. Steve attended the University of Illinois at Champaign. He traveled there by boarding the City of New Orleans in Chicago. But on a solo trip to New Orleans, he awoke, surrounded and inspired by the sound, the rhythm of the train. He drafted a song that would evolve later. Moving beyond parodies, Steve now found himself writing and entering a world of genuine creativity. Three years later, Steve and his wife took that train. The muse returned and Steve finished the song in half an hour. “City of New Orleans” made Arlo Guthrie popular following his story of “Alice’s Restaurant,” which played on the hippie stations. The song also translated into visual art. The Train They Call the City of New Orleans published fifteen years ago as a thirty-two page children’s book of scratchboard watercolors. A rerelease with a compact disc earned a Grammy for best spoken word album for children. Steve, who became a solid member of the Chicago folk scene, stopped in a club one night and heard a mailman army draftee singing in a nasal and scratchy voice. John Prine, of course. They got along well, playing shows together and writing a parody of country music songs, “You Never Even Call Me by My Name,” which became Steve’s crowd-pleasing closer. John refused to take a writing credit. So Steve gave him an antique early-forties Wurlitzer Victory jukebox, spending twelve thousand dollars, royalties John could have earned. David Allan Coe, an outlaw country singer songwriter, enjoyed the big hit in seventy-five with this song, turning it into a five-minute jukebox favorite, which I plugged and played often. Steve Goodman played two thousand shows, opening for Steve Martin two hundred times. Among his many live concerts, Steve played in Milwaukee at Summerfest in seventy-six on a bill with Tom Waits, David Bromberg and Mimi Farina. The photograph on the title page of this book comes from that two-night stand. Randy Newman’s “Short People,” released in seventy-seven, satirized small-minded people from a biased narrator. Randy hated that the song became so hated and misunderstood. Steve, who stood five foot two, loved the joke. He opened for Randy on that tour. Steve kept his leukemia diagnosis quiet for as long as possible. But fatigue and other symptoms eventually became apparent. In eighty-two, he wrote “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” about baseball as a metaphor for life, as an homage to the Cubs and as a meditation on mortality. The Cubs, of course, did not like the song. Two years later, WGN commissioned a new Cubs theme song from Steve. “Go, Cubs, Go.” Twelve days after Steve died in eighty-four, the Cubs won the division championship. He would have been the obvious choice to sing the national anthem at the playoff game in Wrigley Field. The Cubs chose Jimmy Buffet, an inspired choice because he befriended Steve, who took him to Wrigley Field. Buffet the protege, like so many others, eclipsed Steve the mentor. With thirty-two thousand Cubs fans, the game-opener served as a eulogy and spiritual goodbye for Steve. “This is for Steve Goodman,” said Jimmy Buffet, happy to be upstaged by his departed friend. Friends later surreptiously sprinkled Steve’s cremains in left field. Bonnie Raitt, Loudon Wainwright and many other musicians liked Steve’s stage presence, humor, improv and the musical knowledge of an encyclopedia. Steve Goodman grew up at the end of my block. We played together. But then my family moved. So Steve and I fell out of touch. Years later, Steve’s name came up as the writer of “City of New Orleans.” And David Allan Coe famously mentions him in “You Never Even Call Me by My Name.” I tried to located Steve Goodman, in the days before the Internet. But, alas. Two different Steve Goodmans. Steve Goodman, as remembered on Weekend Edition during five minutes of conversation and music with the book's author and Scott Simon after the Cubs won the World Series. http://www.npr.org/2016/10/29/4998677... In a footnote to history, Steve Goodman and Hillary Rodham went to the same high school at the same time, while I attended one in the next district. We graduated the same year and our schools played each other for football and basketball. After the home games at my big high school, I DJed the record sock hops on Friday and Saturday nights. Steve Goodman grew up in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, where my mother grew up a generation earlier. Dad bought new cars from Z Frank, where Steve’s dad worked.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ted Daniels

    700+ pages is probably more that we need to know about Steve Goodman. He wrote one really wonderful, enduring song, and YouTube videos confirm that we was a fine musician and entertainer. If you grew in the 60's and 70's folk/rock era, you may be surprised at the number of influential musicians that Steve worked with. 700+ pages is probably more that we need to know about Steve Goodman. He wrote one really wonderful, enduring song, and YouTube videos confirm that we was a fine musician and entertainer. If you grew in the 60's and 70's folk/rock era, you may be surprised at the number of influential musicians that Steve worked with.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J Koch

    Whew! It probably took me about a year to read this nearly800 page, large format biography, not because it was a hard read, but because there was so much information, so many stories, so much fun, so many songs referenced, to digest. There hardly seems a single detail of Steve’s life and career that Clay Eels did not cover.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Bacon

    Full disclosure: this book was written by my father law. Full Disclosure two: I have only skimmed it. But, I have been privileged to attend numerous events for this book and listen to interviews and I can tell you it's as catchy as a good folk song despite its 800 page bulk. And its subject wrote many a song in his brief time on earth, from silly to sublime and I have yet hear a clunker . There's even a CD of tribute songs if you want to brush up on Steve's legacy, though I'm hoping my father in l Full disclosure: this book was written by my father law. Full Disclosure two: I have only skimmed it. But, I have been privileged to attend numerous events for this book and listen to interviews and I can tell you it's as catchy as a good folk song despite its 800 page bulk. And its subject wrote many a song in his brief time on earth, from silly to sublime and I have yet hear a clunker . There's even a CD of tribute songs if you want to brush up on Steve's legacy, though I'm hoping my father in law will let me have at his bootleg collection at some point. Plus Hillary Rodham Clinton reminisces about her high school days! May we all leave behind an 800 page book of connections and feelings, and may all of us show the tireless energy Clay has in getting out his masterpiee.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ljonz

    I will not finish this book, but enjoyed learning about Steve's connection to other musicians, such as John Prine. It's interesting to find out what influences in his early years led him to write and perform music. He was a success because he was obsessed with listening to and making music. He was a successful performer because he valued the entertainer 'package', and strove to be the one the audience came to see. His must have been a high energy show to attend. I will not finish this book, but enjoyed learning about Steve's connection to other musicians, such as John Prine. It's interesting to find out what influences in his early years led him to write and perform music. He was a success because he was obsessed with listening to and making music. He was a successful performer because he valued the entertainer 'package', and strove to be the one the audience came to see. His must have been a high energy show to attend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Well, it only took me three years to finish this one. The fourth star is because the book is about Steve Goodman. The book does a great job of detailing Goodman's connections to the rest of the music world and includes some nice words from his slightly more famous high school classmate, Hillary Clinton, along with much from and about John Prine, Jethro Burns, Jimmy Buffett and other assorted Goodman co-conspirators. All that said, the book really could have used an editor. Well, it only took me three years to finish this one. The fourth star is because the book is about Steve Goodman. The book does a great job of detailing Goodman's connections to the rest of the music world and includes some nice words from his slightly more famous high school classmate, Hillary Clinton, along with much from and about John Prine, Jethro Burns, Jimmy Buffett and other assorted Goodman co-conspirators. All that said, the book really could have used an editor.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kaye

    Whew, I've finally finished it, and it feels a bit like running a marathon. For Goodman fans, this is a treat, "the complete life". Eals gathered information from most everyone who had any contact with Goodman and plopped it down in this book, more less in chronological order. Lots of photos and information about recordings. It's not a book that will make you marvel at the wonder that is the English language, but then that's not why you'd read it, is it? Whew, I've finally finished it, and it feels a bit like running a marathon. For Goodman fans, this is a treat, "the complete life". Eals gathered information from most everyone who had any contact with Goodman and plopped it down in this book, more less in chronological order. Lots of photos and information about recordings. It's not a book that will make you marvel at the wonder that is the English language, but then that's not why you'd read it, is it?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    I really enjoyed this although the e-book format is not very reader friendly. I love Steve Goodman and only wish I had been aware enough in high school to have gone to one of his shows. He was a true folk music hero as far as I am concerned and this book really highlighted what a truly fine person he was as well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Nowakowska

    Loved the guy's music and although this book is a bit overly thorough, I understand fannishness and am enjoying the slice of 60s life presented and the stories behind the songs. I remember the day he died of his cancer at Fred Hutch in Seattle... Loved the guy's music and although this book is a bit overly thorough, I understand fannishness and am enjoying the slice of 60s life presented and the stories behind the songs. I remember the day he died of his cancer at Fred Hutch in Seattle...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    I thought it was an incredible book detailing the life of Steve Goodman . I highly recommend this book

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    My Neighbor Clay wrote this. I haven't yet read it, but if you're interested in lesser known folk musicians, it's a thorough examination of Steve Goodman of "The City of New Orleans" Fame. My Neighbor Clay wrote this. I haven't yet read it, but if you're interested in lesser known folk musicians, it's a thorough examination of Steve Goodman of "The City of New Orleans" Fame.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kotoole1

    I'm a fan of Steve Goodman's music and I enjoyed reading this book... I'm a fan of Steve Goodman's music and I enjoyed reading this book...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A great look at one of America's best and least known singer/songwriters. Excellent. A longer review appears at www.cloquetriverpress.com. Peace. Mark A great look at one of America's best and least known singer/songwriters. Excellent. A longer review appears at www.cloquetriverpress.com. Peace. Mark

  14. 5 out of 5

    K.Rose

  15. 5 out of 5

    Micheal

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Geuirn

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Zuzel

  18. 5 out of 5

    MARIAN M RACEY

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Brown

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Finkelstein

  21. 5 out of 5

    Helen Demong

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Purzycki

  23. 5 out of 5

    James Odom

  24. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fredcritter

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike Przygoda

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bev Moodey

  30. 5 out of 5

    Linda Shamblin

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