CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
“City of New Orleans” is a folk song written by Steve Goodman, which describes a train
ride from Chicago to New Orleans in bittersweet and nostalgic terms. Goodman got the
idea while traveling on the eponymous train on a visit to his wife’s family’s house. He
performed the song for Arlo Guthrie in the Quiet Knight, a bar in Chicago, and Guthrie
agreed to add it to his set list’s. The song proved a hit for Guthrie in 1972, and is now
more closely associated with him, although Goodman continued to perform it until his
death in 1984. The song has also been covered by Willie Nelson, John Denver, Johnny
Cash, Judy Collins, The Seldom Scene, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, David
Hasselhoff, Back Porch Mary, and others.
“City of New Orleans” won Steve Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best
Country Song in 1984 for Willie Nelson‘s version.
Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.
Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son,
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor.
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.