Steve Goodman: Facing the Music
Steve Goodman was a study in contrasts. At 5 feet 2 inches, he stood tall among those who knew him as a man and a musician. While his life was cut short by leukemia in 1984 at age 36, Goodman lived and performed with a zest like every show might be his last.
Steve Goodman: Facing The Music is a riveting and comprehensive look at a man who lived to entertain. Clay Eals spent close to a decade on the project, conducting interviews with more than 1,000 people for an 800-page book. The book includes a CD featuring excerpts from a 1975 radio interview with Goodman and eighteen songs paying tribute to Goodman by other artists, including John Wesley Harding and Buddy Mondlock.
From singing in synagogues to performing in high school musicals, music was an integral part of Goodman’s youth. His version of “Old Man River” from Showboat was a showstopper, classmate Hillary Rodham Clinton told Eals.
Along with John Prine, Goodman emerged from Chicago’s burgeoning folk scene in the early 1970s. His repertoire included pop, country and jazz, which helped set him apart from others in the field.
Mainstream commercial success eluded Goodman over the course of ten albums released between 1971 and 1984. He fared better as a songwriter. Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson had hit singles with “City Of New Orleans”. David Allan Coe had a top-10 country hit with “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”.
Those songs demonstrated his versatility. The former was a lament for “the disappearing railroad blues” that has become a standard; the latter was a send-up of country music cliches that displayed his sense of humor.
Goodman’s leukemia, diagnosed at age 20, gave him a sense of urgency to his musical career, Eals notes. “If I haven’t performed today, I haven’t done my job,” Goodman told fellow musician Larry Rand. “I have to do it every day or I don’t feel like I’ve put my day in.”