Arlo Guthrie – City of New Orleans

If I could meet any performer I wanted to…Arlo would be one of them. He seems like the most laid back guy in the world. His father was the great singer-songwriter, Woody Guthrie. Arlo wrote some very good songs but he didn’t write this one. City of New Orleans was written by Steve Goodman. Steve did a great job writing this song. Its structure and imagery are fantastic.

Arlo released this in 1972 and it peaked at #18 in the Billboard 100 and #11 in Canada.

Arlo said he ignored his mother’s advice.  She said if he wanted to play music that was fine…but learn something else as a fallback. He said if he would have learned something else, in the hard times he would have done something else instead of music.

“I’ve quoted my dad a lot of over the years. One of my favorite things he said is: ‘It’s better to fail at being yourself than to succeed at being somebody else’.”

From Songfacts about the writer Steve Goodman

Goodman wrote the lyrics on a sketch pad after his wife fell asleep on the Illinois Central train, where they were going to visit his wife’s grandmother. Goodman wrote about what he saw looking out the windows of the train and playing cards in the club car. Everything in the song actually happened on the ride.

After he returned home, Goodman heard that the train was scheduled to be decommissioned due to lack of passengers. He was encouraged to use this song to save the train, so he retouched the lyrics and released it on his first album in 1971.

The City of New Orleans

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’ cards with the old men in the club car
Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score
Won’t you 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 steam
Mothers with their babes asleep
Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream

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

Nighttime on The City of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee
Half way home, we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his song again
The passengers will please refrain
This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, 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