On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Steve Goodman – City of New Orleans (1971)
Staying in the US today, dear reader, and we’re making the journey from New York to Chicago. Here we find a folk singer by the name of Steve Goodman. He had a short life and in that time had a loyal audience, albeit a small one. A talented singer and songwriter, 1001 Songs has opted for a track written by Goodman that would be covered by many artists, especially in country music circles, but they have gone with Goodman’s original version of City of New Orleans.
City of New Orleans was inspired by a train journey that Goodman and his wife took from Chicago to New Orleans. In the song, City of New Orleans, is the name of the train our narrator finds himself on. It’s a long journey but the train is covering around 500 miles a day. We hear about the train’s carriages and the amount of mail sacks it is carrying, we get snippets about the passengers on board too and what a varied bunch they are. We hear about the train by day and the song closes as it hits nighttime and the journey is almost at an end. Another circuit has been completed for the City of New Orleans train and it seems somewhat sad about this denouement.
City of New Orleans is a pleasant little folk number and you could imagine Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory finding a lot to relate to here with the celebration of a train journey. The song would be covered by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson in the 1970s and 1980s respectively, bagging Goodman some nice royalty cheques as a result, I imagine. Though never becoming a huge star, Goodman’s work here ensures he is still remembered. He sadly died in 1984 from leukaemia at the very young age of 36.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (1971)