The name Steve Goodman has been written into my mind since I was just a boy. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the singer David Alan Coe’s version of “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
Before the last verse of the song David Alan Coe has a speaking part that states:
“Well a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country and western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not
The perfect country and western song because he hadn’t
Said anything at all about mama,
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin’ drunk”
Less commonly known is that Steve Goodman didn’t pen the song alone. The song was co-written by John Prine.
Just today I learned that Steve Goodman and John Prine also wrote another song from the jukebox in my mind.
“The Twentieth Century Is Almost Over” is a song that I must have heard ten thousand times performed by the Highwaymen.
I do not recall ever hearing the song before it was released by country super group the Highwaymen in 1985. The song was the last song on the Album the Highwayman.
I found out that Steve Goodman released the song in 1977, on his album Say It in Private.
Goodman’s version shows many more aspects of bluegrass and a style of folk music. While Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Krisofferson, and Waylon Jennings give the song more of a country feel.
Steve Goodman grew up in Chicago. His music spanned the Folk, Country, Rock , Pop and Blues genres. He began writing songs in his teens. Goodman’s contract with Buddah Records came as a result of an introduction by Kris Kristofferson to Paul Anka. Goodman met Kris after opening for him at a club in Chicago.
Steve Goodman was able to play a song he had written for Arlo Guthrie. Guthrie agreed to listen to Goodman play with the condition that he first buy him a beer. Guthrie would sit and listen to Steve Goodman play for as long as it took him to drink that beer.
The song that Steve Goodman played for Arlo Guthrie was “City of New Orleans.”
The beer that Goodman had purchased became a wise investment for him. Arlo Guthrie’s version of “City of New Orleans” became a top 20 hit in 1972. This gave Steve Goodman enough success both financially and artistically to make music his full time career.
Later the same song about the Illinois Central train would be recorded by many other artists. Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, and Chet Akins all had versions of the “City of New Orleans.”
Willie Nelson’s version of the song earned Goodman a Grammy Award for best country song in 1985. Sadly, the award was given to Goodman posthumously. Steve Goodman had been deceased since September 20, 1984 because of Leukemia.
In his career, Steve Goodman wrote more than one perfect country and western song.