Did You Know?
The self-described “perfect country and western song” was written by Steve Goodman and John Prine. If you already listened to David Allan Coe’s 1975 hit “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” you may have already heard the name, Steve Goodman. Coe’s now-infamous track, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” earned him the first Top 10 hit from his album, ‘Once Upon a Rhyme’. This helped him break through as a solo artist. He has always mentioned Goodman as the song’s writer before introducing the final verse. One time, he said,
“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/Well, he sat down and wrote another verse to the song and he sent it to me and after reading it I realized that my friend had written the perfect country & western song and I felt obliged to include it on this album.”
That time, Coe said there was no way it would be a successful country song. Also, he described it without any references to “mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk”. Goodman countered by adding the final spoken verse that humorously adds to those cliches.
An Underrated Songwriter and Back-up To Others’ Successes
Goodman began singing and writing songs as a teenager. After graduating, he regularly performed at a café in New York’s Greenwich Village. Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia at the height of his career. He knew then he had little time left, so he put all his efforts into songwriting and performing.
He also became friends with fellow folk and country singers Prine, Kris Kristofferson and Arlo Guthrie. Goodman brought Kristofferson in one of John Prine’s performance in Chicago. This helped boost Prine’s career. Goodman’s songs were reflective, humorous and tear-jerking. Sometimes, a combination of the three. He sang opening songs for the comedian, Steve Martin. When Martin was at the peak of his career. Bob Dylan admired him, eventually having Bob sing backup on Goodman’s third album. A lifelong Cubs fan, Goodman wrote songs for his beloved underdog team. Cub fan as he is, Goodman also penned “Go Cubs Go,” – sang at every Cubs’ game. Sadly, he died at the age of 36. It was eleven days before he could sing the National Anthem at the Cub’s first post-season game since the 1945 World Series.
Goodman’s most famous work is the stunning “City of New Orleans,” – a song he wrote while roaming by train with his wife. Recorded by folk legends like Arlo Guthrie and Judy Collins, the song has become an American standard. Of course, many country fans ultimately consider Willie Nelson’s 1984 recording for his album of the same name. Nelson’s song won a Grammy in 1985.
Watch Steve Goodman performing “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” from the rooftop of Wrigley Field.