Like many an artist before him, singer/songwriter Steve Goodman’s career began on the live circuit. Before he would become known for his hit compositions “The City Of New Orleans” and “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” Goodman learned his trade by performing superb covers of traditional folk numbers as well as contemporary songs from the rock, country, and folk worlds. Live ’69 captures him in this element, recorded for a radio program in November 1969 at the University of Illinois.
Considering the path that he would later take with his own material, Live ’69 is something of a Rosetta Stone. That this set contains none of Goodman’s humorous and witty originals might initially seem disappointing. It’s no deal-breaker, though, as Goodman treats these songs with equal parts sincerity and humor. Some of the material’s already naturally funny, such as John Denver’s “Ballad of Spiro Agnew” and “Bullfrog Blues,” while takes on “Mama Tried” and “Truck Driving Man” are straightforward interpretations. Best of the lot is the epic twenty minute medley that incorporates The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and traditional folk numbers.
Steve Goodman Live 69 offers us the chance to see how Goodman developed as a songwriter. He sings these songs as if he wrote them, and then he interpolated the lessons the songs taught him into his own. Sadly, Goodman died from leukemia in 1984, making Live ’69 even more of a rare jewel. Live ’69 offers a glimpse of an apt pupil at play, but more importantly, it’s simply a fun romp.
Purchase Steve Goodman Live ’69: Omnivore Recordings