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Go, Cubs, Go

By Randy Richardson

Steve Goodman embodied the spirit of Cubs fans like no other musician has or likely ever will.

A die-hard to the core, the folk singer-songwriter from Chicago’s North Side evocatively captured all the pain and suffering of Cubdom with irony and humor in songs like the immortal “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” and “When the Cubs Go Marching In.”

His warm voice, engaging stage presence and masterful guitar playing made him an icon of the Chicago folk music scene of the 1970s. He was a fixture at the legendary live music bar Earl of Old Town and closely involved with Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he met his good friend, John Prine.

He wrote intelligent, insightful and often wickedly funny lyrics that spoke to the heart of Chicago, including "Lincoln Park Pirates," about the notorious Lincoln Towing Company, and "Daley's Gone," about Mayor Richard J. Daley.

He achieved his greatest success with a song he wrote about a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. Arlo Guthrie's recording of Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” in 1972 became a runaway hit and the song would become an American standard, covered by many other musicians including Johnny Cash, Judy Collins and Willie Nelson, whose recording earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1985. Goodman won his second Grammy, for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1988 for his album, Unfinished Business.

All the time he was writing and performing these enduring songs he was keeping a secret from all but his family and closest friends. In 1969, the same year of the infamous collapse of his beloved Cubs, Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia.

Goodman finally lost his battle with cancer on September 20, 1984, at the age of 36. Just four days after his death, the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title in the National League for the first time ever, earning them their first post-season appearance since 1945, three years before Goodman's birth. Eight days later, on October 2, the Cubs played their first post-season game since the 1945 World Series. Goodman had been asked to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before it; Jimmy Buffett filled in, and dedicated the song to Goodman. The classic punch line to Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" has the dying man assuring his friends that one day they'd meet again "at the Heavenly Hall of Fame," but until then, they should not worry because he would be using "season tickets to watch the Angels." Then he added, "You, the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs, so it's me that feels sorry for you."

Goodman's voice can still be heard at Wrigley Field, after every Cubs win. That's him singing through the loudspeakers, "Go, Cubs, Go."

Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 07:48AM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments27 Comments | References2 References

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