Monday, July 28, 2008

The silliest song ever written

It's funny every time I hear it.

For the lyrics, click here

The performer whose version of this song is sung on this video is David Allan Coe, a singer who is known for a lot of, shall we say, less-than-family friendly songs (even the titles to many of his tunes could not be shown on television or said on the radio - even in this day and age). But at least we have to give him this much - he reformed himself after being released from prison, and made a life for himself as a performer - all based on self-promotion, gratuitous name dropping, some real flashes of brilliance and genuine musicality, humor, and the creation of a mysterious persona.

His built-in account of how the song was written is (like many of Coe's lyrics) a concocted story. But in fairness, he made the song a hit, and his version is probably the funniest.

But if you'd like to see and hear the song's author, the late Steve Goodman, perform it as he originally wrote it (which he indeed wrote as the definitive spoof of country music), click here.

Goodman, in spite of this utterly silly parody song, also wrote beautiful haunting ballads that really capture American life. My good buddy Fr. David Juhl considers Goodman's melancholy train song The City of New Orleans (famously sung by Arlo Guthrie) to be one of the greatest something or others. I can't pull up the quote because Juhl's blog doesn't have a search thingie. Oh well, suffice it to say, Steve Goodman was a brilliant songwriter and poet who, as is evidenced by this uproariously funny piece of satire, did not take himself too seriously.

Anyway, once this song gets in your head... well, y'all have been warned.


David said...

Some time ago I wrote that Goodman's "City of New Orleans" was, in my opinion, the quintessential American song...or perhaps the best song written in the last 50 years about our country.

Something to that effect. And I stand behind it. The world has just about forgotten about Steve Goodman.

He also wrote "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request", a song near and dear to my heart as the Cubs try hard not to blow yet another season.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I went to see David Allen Coe in Concert here in Enid with a college aged Parishioner around 2 years ago. He delighted in informing his Baptist friends that his pastor had a beer with him at the David Allen Coe concert.

It was a fine concert. Eric Stinnett made me listen to that song, by the by.

Anonymous said...

Ah, David Allen Coe! Reminds me of something I once heard, in reference to Eddie Murphy: Censorship is the comedian's friend.

Cub fans won't forget Steve Goodman. All 41,000 fans at Wrigley sing (loudly) "Go, Cubs, Go" at the close of every victory. Now, on WGN radio, they've taken to leaving the mike on, so we can sing along from home. I've spent many a summer evening this year out working in one of my barns, singing along with Steve. Only the chickens can hear.

Father Hollywood said...

Thanks Dave! And I hope to ride the CONO next year with the whole Hollywood family. We are catechizing Lion Boy to be able to sing it.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

DAC will be in New Orleans at the House of Blues next month. It's tempting, but I haven't been to a rock/country concert since the 80s. I don't know if my eardrums could take it.

I know, I know - if it's too loud...

And yes, I think I am. But then again, DAC is no spring chicken himself.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Aaron:

Great observation DAC is as much George Carlin style comic as he is Waylon Jennings style outlaw.

Chickens? As in:

"House full of chickens and yard full of hogs, coal burnin' stove, no natural gas"?

Well, if that ain't country!

wmc said...

Those of us who grew up around the Chicago School of Folk Music revere the name of Steve Goodman. "City of New Orleans" is a classic of American folk music, perfectly performed by the inimitable Arlo Guthrie.

I enjoy playing this one whenever I break out the guitar.

Clay Eals said...

Good to see your post about "You Never Even Call Me by My Name" by Steve Goodman. He often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my new 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music."

The book explores in great detail the genesis of "You Never Even Call Me by My Name," co-written by John Prine, debunking the notion that David Allan Coe had anything to do with the classic final verse. Coe and Prine were among my more than 1,000 interviewees.

The book also delves deeply into the genesis of Goodman's "City of New Orleans," and Arlo Guthrie is a key source among my interviewees and even contributed the foreword.

Finally, as a commenter alludes to, the book examines the origins of Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" and its semi-sequel, "Go, Cubs, Go."

You can find out more at my Internet site (below). The book's first printing just sold out, all 5,000 copies, and a second edition of 5,000 is available now. The second edition includes hundreds of little updates and additions, including 30 more photos for a total of 575. It just won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography:

To order a second-printing copy, see the "online store" page of my site. Just trying to spread word about the book. Feel free to do the same!

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515
(206) 484-8008

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Clay:

Very cool! It sounds like a fun read. Thanks for dropping by my blog.

Pastor Zip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pastor Zip said...

Silliest? Not even close. But I've got the 45 that I purchased new 2 months before my 18th birthday early during this nation's bi-centennial year and I still sing "But the only time I know I'll hear 'good ole Steven Paul,' Is when Jesus has his final judgement day." ;-> Great song.

As for "The City of New Orleans," I fell in love with it the first time I heard Arlo's record when I was 13. Even as a young teen I found it poignant, as I mourned that Amtrak had taken over the old Santa Fe I'd ridden from LA to San Diego only a few years earlier.

And now that I'm in Illinois and have driven alongside the southbound odyssey, and still love riding that magic carpet made of steel, I nearly choke up every time I hear it. "Train song" my eye; it's "Goodnight America...." Goodman caught it perfectly then and nearly 40 years later it's just as fresh as I walk by the graveyards of rusted automobiles just a couple blocks from Zion's Parsonage.

I've got Hobo's Lullaby on CD and I simply cannot not put "The City of New Orleans" on repeat and sing along with Arlo at least half-a-dozen times. Like I'm doing right now as I compose this comment.

Fr. Juhl's spot-on: "The City of New Orleans" is the quintessential song of post-1965 America.


Clay Eals said...

At the risk of being accused of endless promotion of my Steve Goodman biography, I want to share some observations about "City of New Orleans" therein that will ring true to Pastor Zip.

The comments come from Darcie Sanders, one of the co-founders of the Amazingrace Cooperative, which operated in the 1970s in Evanston, Illinois.

"It's the best outsider anthem anyone has ever written for America," she says of the CONO lyrics. "For people coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, that's how we all felt. We were the native sons and daughters, but maybe America didn't know us or recognize us. ... Who has not felt that their life is disappearing? It's the questioning, the trying to get closer, and yet the train is speeding away, the sense of the lost moment. That's how a whole generation felt about their relationship with America and themselves as Americans."

Then there is her comment on the music side of CONO, particularly the chorus. "You can't stop people from singing it," she says. "This goes beyond classic into something archetypal that hooks into people so deeply that they're moved, and they join in. That's an incredible test."

I dare say that these comments, found on pages 313 and 674, would resonate with millions.

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515 (home)
(206) 484-8008 (cell)