City of New Orleans” is a folk song written by Steve Goodman (and first recorded for Goodman’s self-titled 1971 album), describing a train ride fromChicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad‘s City of New Orleans in bittersweet and nostalgic terms. Goodman got the idea while traveling on the Illinois Central line for a visit to his wife’s family. While at the Quiet Knight bar in Chicago, Goodman saw Arlo Guthrie, and asked to be allowed to play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed, on the condition that if Goodman would buy him a beer, Guthrie would listen to him play for as long as it took to drink the beer. 

Goodman played “City of New Orleans,” which Guthrie liked enough that he asked to record it. The song was a hit for Guthrie on his 1972 album Hobo’s Lullaby, and is now more closely associated with him, although Goodman performed it until his death in 1984. The song has been recorded by numerous artists both in the US and Europe.

Chart (1972)

Peak
position

U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Charts

18

U.S. Billboard Easy Listening Charts[1]

4


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