Steve Goodman: Facing the Music
by Clay Eals

The CD

Play clips of all songsPlay all clips:  
'A good friend is dead and gone, but his song ain't over yet'

Play clips of all songs 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.

Clay Eals

Track Notes

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.

1. Song for Steve (3:19) Play clip

Brian Gill, Moscow, Idaho

This affecting one-man, one-guitar piece is by a heart-on-sleeve stalwart of the 1970s Chicago folk scene. Written wholly for Steve, it contains a ringing refrain that sums up this collection: "His song ain't over yet."


2. Richer for the Time (2:44) Play clip

Norm Hacking, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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.


3. Light Up the Sky (5:07) Play clip

Jessica Anne Baron, Del Mar, California

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.


4. Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, David Blue and Me (4:32) Play clip

John Wesley Harding (Wes Stace), Brooklyn, New York

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, Ringwood, New Jersey. Original version is from the CD, "It Happened One Night," Appleseed APR CD 1083.


5. This is for Lena's Cafι (4:19) Play clip

Pierce Pettis, Mentone, Alabama

Fittingly a live recording, this is an aching tale of the Saratoga Springs, New York, music club, the kind that was Steve's staple in his early years.


6. No Choice (3:36) Play clip

Buddy Mondlock, Nashville, Tennessee

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.


7. Penny Evans' Daughters (3:02) Play clip

Roland Kushner, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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.


8. Old Town, Old Friend (2:52) Play clip

Chris Farrell, Chicago, Illinois

From another Chicago stalwart, this country-tinged track salutes the Old Town scene and cleverly merges Steve's "City of New Orleans" chorus ("Good morning, America") with Hudie ("Leadbelly") Ledbetter's best-known song ("Goodnight Irene").

Farrell on vocal and acoustic guitar, Victor Sanders on bass and electric guitar.


9. Flying with the Angels (4:14) Play clip

Jef Jaisun, Seattle, Washington

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. Dundee's quiet harmonica provides pensive counterpoint.


10. Officer Rigoni to the Rescue, or How the People of the State of Illinois Saved Me from Myself (2:09) Play clip

Greg Hildebrand, Minhamite, Victoria, Australia

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."


11. Heroes (5:06) Play clip

Steve Hopkins, Austin, Texas

This musician's homage to Buddy Holly, John Lennon and Harry Chapin culminates with a verse about Steve. Hopkins hails from Austin, a city with a rich music scene in which Steve had a strong following.

From the CD "Just Another Day in Paradox," © Steve Hopkins, MAYDEWS Music, 1999 (BMI).


12. The Man with the Golden Tune (4:18) Play clip

Words and music by Peter Weisz, Carmel, Indiana / Vocals and instrumentals by Tim Brickley, Indianapolis, Indiana

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 Indianapolis.


13. Gather at the River (4:50) Play clip

Don Lange, Dundee, Oregon

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 Chicago folkie who runs a winery near Portland.

© 2006 Barking Spider Music (BMI), administered by Bug Music, all rights reserved, used by permission.


14. Life Down on the Bistro (4:16) Play clip

Reuben "Lounge Lizard" Morgan, Daytona Beach, Florida

This salute to a long-gone music club in Atlanta, Georgia, comes in a samba-esque tempo and with full instrumentation, linking Steve to peers Jimmy Buffett and Gamble Rogers.

From the CD "No Worries," 2006.


15. Song for Steve Goodman (5:27) Play clip

Eddie Walker, Brookfield, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

This epic story song from England was recorded at the 2003 Cambridge Folk Festival, a few hundred yards from the scene described in the first verse. Walker's warmth, admiration and eye for detail emulate those qualities in Steve himself. His chorus also conveys the departure of both Steve and the passenger train. And in every concert, as in this one, Walker ends the song by segueing to "City of New Orleans," never deviating from Steve's original words.

Original version on the LP "Picking My Way," 1985, Ragged Records, RAGR003.


16. Why Did He Have to Leave? (3:21) Play clip

Harry Waller, Chicago, Illinois

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).


17. I Had a Dream (3:35) Play clip

Brian Gill, Moscow, Idaho

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 arrived in Idaho by way of Chicago, Las Vegas and Nashville, and the 23-year-old dream expressed in this tune inspires him to this day.


18. The Dutchman (2:43) Play clip

Jay Haynes, piano, Villanova, Pennsylvania

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, Chicago, Ill., Bird Avenue Publishing (ASCAP), 1969.


19. Steve Goodman audio clips (6:13)

In April 1975, John Platt (then of WXRT-FM in Chicago, now of WFUV-FM in New York) drew from Steve some of the most intriguing interview comments of his career. Here, Steve reveals his musical philosophy and affection but with a wink that bares the folly of taking it all too seriously.

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, Chicago, Illinois


Download RealPlayer Download RealPlayer
(For free player, use the "Free RealPlayer" text link near the top right).

©2007-2023 by Clay Eals
Web site by Valerie Magee of
Header photos by Marlene Rosol, Andrew Czernek, and Marianna Samero. See uncropped photos on bonus photo page.