Santa Ana Winds/Unfinished Business
Steve Goodman was born in Chicago in 1948. He attended the University of Illinois where he began his singing career as a member of a popular rock cover band. He left the University after one year to pursue his musical career in New York City’s Greenwich Village. After a short stay he returned to Chicago with the intention of going back to school only to discover that his fatigue was caused by Leukemia. Goodman’s wife states his “life and talent were directed by the physical pain and time constraints of a fatal disease which he kept at bay…by willpower alone…he had to live it as fast as he could”. Goodman lived with the leukemia during his entire recording career.
Goodman, who was already friends with John Prine, was playing a Chicago bar and opening for Kris Kristofferson, when he met Paul Anka who brought him back to New York to record. Goodman signed with Buddah Records and released his 1971 self-titled debut produced by Kristofferson. That album contained the song “City of New Orleans”, about the Illinois Central’s train. The song became a huge hit for Arlo Guthrie, and was also recorded by Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Chet Atkins, Lynn Anderson, and Willie Nelson. Goodman’s 1972 follow up recording “Somebody Else’s Troubles” contained the heart wrenching title track with the lyric “If I had somebody else’s troubles I wouldn’t loose any sleep at night”. Goodman also wrote the humorous “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” recorded by David Allan Coe. His song “Go, Cubs, Go”, about his favorite baseball team, is played at every Chicago Cubs home game.
Goodman recorded five more albums with Asylum Records before starting his own label Red Pajamas to record the remainder of his songs. He released two albums “Artistic Hair” and “Affordable Art” on Red Pajamas before his passing in 1984 at the age of thirty-six. “Santa Ana Winds” and 1987’s “Unfinished Business” are the third and fourth albums of his being re-issued on Omnivore. In 1985 Goodman was awarded a posthumous Grammy Award (Best Country Song) for Willie Nelson’s version of “The City of New Orleans”. Three years later Goodman won another posthumous Grammy for “Unfinished Business”.
“Santa Ana Winds” includes the ten original tracks and eight bonus solo acoustic tracks. The band on the first half includes Steve Fishell (Emmy Lou Harris), pedal steel; and Byron Berline (Flying Burrito Brothers), fiddle; they are featured on the country sounding “Telephone Answering Tape” written with David Grisman. We get to hear Goodman’s beautiful voice and fabulous acoustic guitar. For comparison the solo acoustic version offers a chance to hear Goodman as a folk music genius. Both “Face On The Cutting Room Floor” and “Queen Of The Road” were written with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The sentimental “I Just Keep Falling In Love” is absolutely beautiful. “You Better Get It While You Can” includes the lyric “from the cradle to the crypt it’s a mighty short trip”.
“Unfinished Business” won a 1988 Grammy Award as “Best Contemporary Folk Album”. It is a collection of “demos, outtakes and unissued recordings” lovingly compiled by his friend and manager Al Bunetta. “(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I”, recorded by both Hank Snow and Elvis Presley, features mandolin player Jethro Burns and another beautiful vocal from Goodman. Also included is one of Goodman’s biggest hits, a cover of Michael Peter Smith’s “The Dutchman”. Other highlights are “Mind Over Matter”; “God Bless Our Mobile Home”, Billy Vera’s “Millie Make Some Chilli”, and the Rogers and Hart show stopper “My Funny Valentine”. The bonus tracks include the solo acoustic “If She Were You” and the closer, the “Ballad of Flight 191 (They Know Everything About It)” both co-written with John Prine.
Both albums feature packaging with a booklet and photos. Steve Goodman’s beautiful music shall not be forgotten.